Skip to main content

Full text of "Luther And The Reformation Vol III Progress Of The Movement 1521-29"

See other formats





Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History, University of Edinburgh 









THIS volume traces the history of Luther as a Reformer 
from the Diet of Worms to the Conference of Marburg. 
These years constitute the second act of the Reformation 
drama. In the opening scene we see the recluse of the 
Wartburg directing the movement by his correspondence 
and continuing and widening the attack on his opponents 
in a series of controversial writings, dealing with ecclesiastical 
institutions and usages Auricular Confession, the Mass, 
religious Vows, and Monastitism. With his activity as 
propagandist he combines that of the scholar and the 
teacher, the chief fruits of which are his translation of the 
New Testament from the original Greek and his series of 
sermons in the vernacular for the instruction of the people 
in the Gospel. 

In his absence at the Wartburg his colleagues at 
Wittenberg attempt to initiate a thoroughgoing reform of 
religious usages. This reform arouses the opposition of 
the Elector of Saxony and eventuates in a deadlock and 
the demand for Luther's return. His reappearance as 
active leader and his moderating influence mark a 
victory for the policy of gradual change in virtue 
of expediency, to which his colleagues, with the exception 
of Carlstadt, defer. He himself, however, erelong deems 
the time ripe for more incisive measures and takes in hand 
the reform of worship, usages, and organisation at Wittenberg 
and elsewhere. 

Meantime the evangelical movement has been taking an 
ever firmer and wider grip of Germany through the co- 
operation of a large band of recruits from the secular and 

vi Preface 

regular clergy with the Reformer, who renews from 
Wittenberg his polemic against the Roman Curia and its 
literary champions in Germany and elsewhere. The growing 
strength of the movement is reflected in the refusal of the 
first Diet of Niirnberg to suppress it and its demand for the 
convocation of a free General Council in Germany to consider 
the question of reform. Though the second Diet held in the 
same city is less recalcitrant, it only undertakes to execute 
the Edict of Worms " as far as possible/' and repeats the 
demand for a General Council. 

Throughout these three years of conflict and expansion, 
Luther, though an outlaw, has become the dominating force 
in the empire, and the Reformation, both as a destructive 
and constructive movement, is bidding fair to eventuate in 
a revolution of the old order in Church and State. Truly a 
marvellous tribute to the religious genius, the courage, the 
daring of the monk who, in his appeal to Scripture and 
conscience at Worms, had seemed to play the part of a 
second Hus and invite the doom of the martyr of Constance. 

By the year 1524 the movement has quickened the 
aspiration for political and social as well as religious reform, 
and though Luther has striven to keep it within the strictly 
religious sphere, as he conceived it, and has denounced 
revolutionary violence, the drama widens with the abortive 
risings of the lesser nobility under Hutten and Sickingen 
to achieve a political revolution, and of the masses to 
efiect a social as well as a religious Reformation. 

As the result, in part, of this complication, the evangelical 
movement, whilst continuing to gain recruits among the 
princes and the people in northern Germany, loses something 
of its initial grandeur as an emancipation from the old 
religious and social order and ceases to be a national move- 
ment. The empire is divided into two antagonistic religious 
parties which league themselves for or against it. The 
influence of this antagonism appears in the two Diets of 

Preface vii 

Spires. In the first Diet the balance of advantage leans in 
favour of the adherents of Luther, who begin to organise 
separate territorial churches. In the second it falls heavily 
against them, whilst the evangelical cause is further weakened 
by the breach between Luther and Erasmus and the out- 
break of dissension in the evangelical ranks over the sacra- 
mental question. At this point the curtain falls on the 
second act of the Reformation drama. In the fourth and 
concluding volume the sequel, which constitutes the final 
act and closes with Luther's death in 1546, will be 

The author expresses his thanks to the Carnegie 
Universities* Trust for a guarantee against loss up to a 
certain amount for the publication of this volume. 




LUTHER AT THE WARTBURG (i) - - - - 1-46 

I. BEHIND THE VEIL - - - - - - 

Knight George Conflicting rumours Popular excitement 
Letters to his colleagues His studies and literary work 
Expounds Psalms 37 and 68 for the encouragement of his 
Wittenberg friends The Bible his grand resource Serious 
attack of illness Rambles and adventures His encounters 
with the devil. 


Encourages Melanchthon to take his- place as preacher 
His compromising utterance on sin Reorganisation of the 
University-^-Wntes on Auricular Confession Its unscriptural 
and tyrannical character In what sense he accepts the practice 
Ridicules and denounces theSorbonne theologians Prosecution 
of married priestsThe question of the celibacy of the clergy 
Approves the marriage of priests, but questions Carlstadt's plea 
in favour of the marriage of monks. 


Theses on monastic vows The monastic life based on the 
pernicious principle of meriting salvation by works The 
New Testament is the reign of liberty and faith Unwarranted 
distinction between the precepts and the counsels of the Gospel 
Impression produced by the Theses Elaborates them in his 
work on " Monastic Vows " Motive and importance of the 
work Current views of the monastic life Reversion to Jewish 
legahsm The common Christian life the true Christian life 
Vindicates the right to renounce these vows The profession 
of them largely hypocritical Arguments in support of this 
contention Evil physical and moral effects of the vow of 
chastity A landmark of the evangelical movement Luther's 
impatience with Spalatin over the attempt to frustrate its 
publication The Chapter of the Augustinian Order concedes 
liberty to renounce the monastic life 

x Contents 



Carlstadt and Zwilling agitate for full communion Inter- 
vention of the Elector A Commission supports the demand 
for reform of the Mass The Elector's opposition Luther on 
the Abrogation of Private Mass Attacks the priestly power 
and the sacrificial Mass Contrasts the original institution 
with its mediaeval development A terrific indictment Theo- 
logical bias and moral indignation Wittenberg another 


LUTHER AT THE WARTBURG (2) - - - - 47-79 

I. THE HALLE " IDOL . . . . * 47-54 

The Indulgence at Halle Luther writes " Against the Idol 
at Halle " The Elector forbids its publication Luther's 
spirited reply to Spalatin His ultimatum to the Archbishop 

of Maintz The Archbishop's abject capitulation Plain 

speaking to Capito, the Archbishop's secretary Secret visit to 
Wittenberg Student demonstrations against the Mass 
Angry with Spalatin and will not subordinate the Gospel to 
political expediency. 


Signs of popular unrest Madness of the Romanists in 
ignoring these signs and striving to repress the Gospel- 
Attempts in the "Exhortation to all Christians 1 ' to forestall 
a violent upheaval Reformation to be undertaken by the 
civil authority, not by the people Popular revolt inadmissible 
He has not preached revolt, but only proclaimed the Gospel 
The " Exhortation " the expression of personal conviction, not 
of political expediency Criticism of Luther's attitude. 


NEW TESTAMENT - - - - - - 61-68 

Sardonic New Year's Greeting to the Pope Sermons m the 
Vernacular (fostillc) Luther as preacher Experimental, 
Chnsto-centric theology High evaluation of Paul's Epistles 
The ethic of faith At work on his translation of the New 
Testament Moulding the vernacular into a worthy medium 
of the original A monument of his linguistic ability. 


Carlstadt dispenses communion in both kinds, Christmas 
1521 Zwilling at Eilenburg The attack on images- 
Reformation ordinance Its character Melanchthon and the 
Zwickau prophets Elector's attitude towards the innovations 
Condemns precipitate measures and demands the restoration 
of the old order Luther's colleagues urge his return to 

Contents xi 



Luther's initial attitude towards the innovations His 
opinion of the prophets Effect of the letter from Wittenberg- 
Resolution to returnHis bluff letter to the Elector The 
Elector's evasive reply Luther's spirited answer For political 
reasons agrees to write a diplomatic statement in exoneration 
of the Elector Equivocal character Luther in the inn at Jena. 


Eight successive sermons Condemns precipitate reform 
Consideration for the scruples of weak brethren Reform must 
come gradually through the preaching of the Word 
Conditioned liberty Views on images, etc. Communion in 
both kinds not to be forced and confession not to be neglected 
Advocate of tolerance in regard to usages Criticism of his 
policy Modification of the ordinance Estrangement from 
Carlstadt Heated interview with the prophets. 



Letters on toleration Toleration does not mean indifference 
to the Gospel or infidelity to religious conviction Undertakes 
an evangelical mission in Saxony His aggressive action at 
Altenburg Religious dissension at Erfurt The Epistle to 
the Church at Erfurt Visit to Erfurt Becomes more militant 
in his controversy with the Elector and the Chapter of All 
Saints at Wittenberg Enforces the suppression of the old 
usages Approximates the position of the advanced reformers 
The " Order of Worship " for the Church at Leisnig The 
" Formula Missae " Adopts communion in both kinds 
Vernacular hymns The Baptismal ServiceVindicates the 
democratic Constitution of the Church at Leisnig The "De 
Instituendis Ministris Ecclesiae " The right to appropriate 
ecclesiastical revenues for the common good. 


Confidence in the triumph of his cause The " Caveat 
Against Human Teaching " The philippic " Against the 
Falsely Called Estate of the Pope and the Bishops "No com- 
promise with the secularised and feudalised hierarchy Violence 
and lack of reasoned restraint His Bull of Reformation 
Henry VIIL's " Defence of the Seven Sacraments against 
Luther n Luther refutes his book and drubs the king His 
bouts with Cochlaeus and Faber The exodus of monks and 
nuns Luther and the escaped nuns of Nimbschen The story 

xii Contents 

of the fugitive nun of Neu Helfta His attack on the celibate 
state and vindication of marriage as a divine and natural 
institution The sex question and his realistic treatment of it 
Marriage not incompatible with the higher spiritual life 
Evil effects of the celibate state Would reform the laws relative 
to marriage. 

THE EMPIRE AND LUTHER - - - 138-158 


Elemental power of Luther's writings Marked increase of 
literary output, largely pro-Lutheran The popular pamuhlet, 
" Neukarsthans " Luther's propagandist activity 
Melanchthon's " Loci Communes " Recruits from the 
secular and regular clergy Questionable character of some 
of them The process of expansion Converts among the 
princes and the nobility. 

II. THE Two DIETS OF NURNBERG (1522-24) - - 149-158 

Reform policy of Pope Hadrian VI. No compromise with 
heresy The first Diet of Nurnberg declines to enforce the 
Edict of Worms or silence the Lutheran preachers Demands 
the convocation of a free Council in Germany Forbids contro- 
versial preaching and authorises the punishment of married 
priests Luther gratified, but will not desist from preaching and 
defending the Gospel His reply to Pope Hadrian The 
" Pope-Ass at Rome and the Monk's Calf at Freiberg " 
The second Diet at Nurnberg renews the demand for a Council 
in Germany, whilst undertaking to enforce the Worms Edict * * as 
far as possible " The Emperor enjoins the execution of the 
Edict of Worms Luther angrily attacks the Emperor and the 
Diet God will deal with them as He did with Pharaoh- 
Conference of Romanist princes and bishops at Regensburg 
and the outbreak of persecution in Austria and Bavaria. 



German national sentiment Estrangement from Rome on 
national and economic grounds The anti-papal and anti- 
clerical spirit Ulrich von Hutten its literary exponent 

~f ----- > v A^ubblMM, AltJ J.4 bVJLO,.Ljr GJfcpVfilGUI. ~* 

Hutten attempts to incite a revolt against Rome and the terri- 
torial princes for the reformation of the Church and the State 
Appeals to the nobility and the towns Luther refuses to 
identify his cause with political revolt Frans von Sickingen 
as Luther's protector Luther's relations with him His 
Caveat against revolutionary violence "The Sickingen 

Contents xiii 


rising and its failure Luther in spirit anti-revolutionary in 
spite of the inflammatory language of some of his philippics 
His tractate "On the Secular Power "Recognises its divine 
right within its own sphere But denies its jurisdiction in the 
spiritual sphere Thought and faith are duty free Passive 
resistance Denunciation of princely tyranny His view of 
an unjust war. 


The pre-Reformarion movement in behalf of social reform 
Its anti-ecclesiastical spirit and the expectation of a deliverer 
from social wrong Luther's interest in social and economic 
reform His " Sermon on Usury " Condemns the new 
commercialismDemocratic implications of hia religious 


The more advanced preachers as champions of social reform 
Thomas Munzer and the extreme left wing of the evangelical 
party Munzer at Zwickau His doctrine of the living Word 
as against Luther's doctrine of the written Word His activity 
at A Istedt Explains his teaching in a letter to Luther Luther 
pronounces him either mad or drunk The Lutheran test of 
revelation Radical divergence between their respective teach- 
ing Munzer's violent sermon before the Elector Luther 
intervenes with a missive to the princes on the revolutionary 
spirit Ready to tolerate difference of opinion, but not revolu- 
tionary methods Banishment of Miinzer and Pfeiffer. 


Its outbreak Rapid extension of the movement The 
Twelve Articles of the peasants of Upper Swabia Un- 
mistakable influence of the religious Reformation The 
demands of the peasants Ready to arbitrate Wider scope and 
more aggressive spirit of other reform programmes Munzer's 
theocratic revolution How far the movement influenced by 
Luther's teaching The peasant attack directed against ecclesi- 
astical as well as secular lords Comparatively little wanton 
bloodshed The Weinsberg outrage. 

V. LUTHER AND THE RISING . - - - 198-210 

Carlstadt takes the side of the peasants His feud with 
Luther In response to the appeal of the peasants Luther 
gives his judgment on the movement His " Exhortation to 
Peace " and its underlying motives Denounces the oppressors 
of the people who are also the enemies of the Gospel Condemns 
the use of force for the redress of grievances and the more 
advanced preachers concerned in the movement His gospel 
of suffering and patience Serfdom compatible with 
Christianity Advises an accommodation Criticism of his 
attitude The "Exhortation " fails to stop the movement His 
violent appeal to the princes against the insurgents It excites 
protests, but he refuses to apologise for his violence Suppres- 

xiv Contents 


sion followed by a terrible retribution Effect on the evangelical 
movement The German Reformation tended to strengthen the 
regime of the absolute ruler and ceased to be a democratic 



I. LUTHER AND EDUCATION - - - 211-224 

Obscurantist attitude of the extremists towards culture- 
Growing lack of interest in the higher education Economic as 
well as religious factors Luther opposes this tendency 
Realises and emphasises the value of a humanist education 
His "Appeal to the German Municipalities" in behalf of 
educational reform Urgency of the question in view of 
its practical importance Arguments in support of a 
classical, Christian education Essential for a right knowledge 
of the Scriptures Equally essential in the interest of the State 
as well as the Church Compulsory elementary education and 
higher education for those fitted to receive it The appeal a 
remarkable and highly creditable performance. 

II. LUTHER AND ERASMUS .... 224-242 

Luther the magnet of an increasing circle of young scholars 
Alienation of the older humanists Erasmus's early attitude 
sympathetic, though non-committal By his critical labours 
prepares the way for Luther His work as critic and reformer 
What Luther and Erasmus had in common and wherein they 
differed Erasmus and the " Devotio Moderna "Conflicting 
views of his real position Compared with Luther lacking in 
passionate religious conviction Why Luther failed to appreciate 
him Why he failed to appreciate Luther His nervous dread of 
revolution In this early period Luther courts his friendship 
and Erasmus actively befriends him against his obscurantist 
opponents Denounces the heresy hunters and the policy of 
persecution He himself not made to be a martyr Wishes to 
maintain neutrality Effect of Hutten's violent polemic in 
driving him into the anti-Lutheran camp Luther's letters to 
Spalatin and Oecolampadius and to Erasmus himself Reply 
of Erasmus Mutual embitterment Erasmus at last resolves 
to enter the arena against Luther. 


The " De Libero Arbitrio "The question of free will 
Undogmatic method of examining the subject Examines it in 
the light of Scripture, though the opinion of the Fathers and 
doctors of the Church ought to have weight Scriptural passages 
which imply free will Passages which seem to invalidate it 
The case of Pharaoh Opposes unconditional determinism 
What he approves in Luther's teaching Criticises his dogmas 
of original sin and the total impotence of the will to do the good 
His mediate position Good features of the work Lack of 
understanding of Luther and his teaching Influence of 
scholastic theology on his thought. 

Contents xv 



The " De Servo Arbitrio "Luther's estimate of the " De 
Libero Arbitrio " Dislikes the scepticism of Erasmus The 
question of authority in religion Fundamental religious im- 
portance of the problem of free will All that happens depends 
on the eternal and immutable will of God Rules out contin- 
gencyRejects Erasmus's contention that this doctrine should 
not be indiscriminately preached to the people for opportunist 
reasons Answers the practical objections of Erasmus and 
criticises his conception of free will Scripture, he maintains, 
teaches the unfree will God is omnipotent will and man is 
absolutely incapable, in virtue of original sin, of doing the 
divine will Will not admit the distinction between fore- 
knowledge and fore-ordmation The divine determinism is a 
necessary and salutary though hard doctrine The testimony 
of Paul and John The doctrine in the light of the Pauline 
teaching on sin and justification It is an essential of Luther's 
religious experience The " De Servo Arbitrio " a sustained 
piece of reasoning of a high order Luther's exalted conception 
of God as the absolute good conditions his view of the impotency 
of the will Criticism of his extreme detennimst teaching His 
undue insistence on the antithesis between faith and reason 
Flaws in his reasoning Nevertheless the " De Servo Arbitrio " 
is a great performance Its service to the Reformation 
Resentment of Erasmus and complete estrangement between 
him and Luther. 


MENT ------ 274-305 

I. THE FIRST DIET OF SPIRES - - - 274-280 

How the suppression of the Peasant Rising was detrimental 
to the Lutheran cause Extension of the anti-Lutheran League 
Counter-League initiated by the Elector John of Saxony and 
the Landgrave Philip of Hesse The Lutheran princes and 
cities combine with the moderate Catholics against the imperial 
demand for the execution of the Edict of Worms Change of the 
Emperor's attitude for political reasons The majority of the 
first Diet of Spires leaves the members free to act on their 
own responsibility in the matter of the Edict Foreshadows the 
solution of the religious question on the territorial principle 
Its accordance with the dominant political tendency in the 
empire Notable recruits to the reformed cause and its rapid 
spread in the northern German principalities Its causes. 


Luther's conception of the Church as the communion of 
believers It does not differentiate between the invisible and 
the visible Church How it differs from the Zwinglian and the 
Romanist conception Theoretically it involves an organisation 

xvi Contents 


free from State control Sohm's view Rieker's version of 
Luther's early conception of the interdependence of Church and 
State Recent discussions of German theologians and jurists 
on the subject In consequence of his experience at the Diet of 
Worms, Luther modifies his attitude towards the State In the 
tract on the Secular Power sharply differentiates between the 
temporal and the spiritual spheres The Christian community 
entitled to organise and govern itself, whilst accepting the 
co-operation of the secular authority The Christian-democratic 
principle Missives to the Church at Leisnig and to Hausmann 
and the Senate of Prague in 1523 Effect of the Peasant Rising 
in shaking his faith in a religious democracy Disapproval of 
Lambert's sketch of a constitution for the Church of Hesse- 
Fain to seek the aid of the territorial prince in the organisation 
of the Church Luther lacking in ecclesiastical statesmanship 
His application to the Elector John The Elector's " Instruction 
and Command " The Kirchenordnung or Church ordinance 
Luther's Preface The Ordinance is a confession of faith, a 
directory of public worship, and a scheme of educational 
reformFirst step towards the establishment of consistorial 
Church government. 


The Landgrave Philip's policy of an extension of the evan- 
gelical league His tactical blunder in consequence of the 
Pack forgery The Emperor's success against the League of 
Cognac enables him to attempt to reverse the Recess of the first 
Diet of Spires Weakness of the evangelical party in the second 
Diet of Spires Reactionary decision of the Romanist majority 
Appellation and Protestation of the evangelical princes and 
cities Luther's attitude on the question of its active defence 
Weakness of the Protestation from the constitutional point of 
view Strength of the plea of fidelity to conscience Imperfect 
apprehension of the principle professed. 



Luther's theory of consubstantiation Hoen's figurative, 
symbolic interpretation of the words of institution Luther 
rejects it Carlstadt champions a spiritual interpretation His 
peculiar exegesis Luther confesses his natural proneness to 
accept the symbolic view, but cannot depart from the literal 
meaning of the words of institution His violent philippic 
against Carlstadt " Against the Heavenly Prophets " In 
spite of his dialectic resource, his vehemence defeats itself- 
Fails to convince the Swiss and Strassburg theologians 
Zwingh's early view of the Sacrament the Erasmian one- 
Believes at first in the real presence Ultimately adopts Hoen's 
interpretation Diffeience between the respective theological 
standpoints of Luther and Zwingli For Zwingli salvation is 

Contents xvii 


attainable by faith in the atoning death of Christ on the Cross, 
of which the Sacrament is the memorial For Luther Christ 
offers Himself bodily to the believer in the Sacrament A fierce 
pamphlet warfare between them and their respective partisans, in 
which the two principals develop their views on the ubiquity 
of Christ's body and the relation of the divine and human 
natures in Him Luther's irreconcilable dogmatism. 


The Landgrave proposes a conference and Luther reluctantly 
agrees Preceded by private discussion The public discussion 
The figurative versus the literal interpretation of the words 
'* This is my body " The questions of the ubiquity of Chiist's 
body and the two natures A complete deadlock Luther refuses 
fellowship At the request of the Landgrave he draws up a 
formula of agreement which Zwingh and Bucer refuse to accept 
The Marburg doctrinal Articles which both parties sign The 
conference not a complete failure Luther's growing tendency 
to intolerance. 

INDEX ------- 329-338 




LATE in the evening of the 4th of May, after a wearisome ride 
through the Thuringian Forest, Luther arrived in the 
darkness at the old burg overlooking Eisenach. 1 He was 
lodged in an isolated apartment which commanded a view 
of the forest-clad hills from which he had emerged, and his 
identity was known only to the Warden, Hans von Berlepsch, 
and the trusty troopers who had been concerned in his 
capture. To others he was known as Knight George, and 
in order to fill the part assigned him he was arrayed in a 
costume befitting his supposed rank, with a gold chain 
encircling his neck. He grew a beard on his shaven face 
and a crop of hair on his tonsured crown, was waited on by 
a couple of pages, 2 and was instructed in knightly deportment 
by a trusty trooper (Reitknecht). " You would with difficulty 
recognise me," he wrote to Spalatin ten days after his 
arrival; "in fact, I scarcely know my former self/' 3 The 
Warden was so anxious to preserve the secret of his identity 

1 Enders, iii. 150. Ego die, qua a te avulsus fui, longo itinere novus 
eques fessus, hora ferme undecima, ad mansionem noctis perveni m 
tenebris; cf. " Tischreden," v. 82 (Weimar ed.). 

3 " Tischreden," iii. 37, ed Forstemann. 

8 Enders, in. 155; cf. iii. 164, letter to Melanchthon, 26th May, 
equitem videres ac ipse vix agnobceres. 

2 Luther and the Reformation 

and his whereabouts that he would not at first permit him 
to write to his friends at Wittenberg, and he was fain, in 
obedience to his remonstrances, to tear up the letters he 
had penned to Melanchthon, Amsdorf, Agricola, Schurf, 
and others, " for fear of revealing where I am." 4 A week 
elapsed before the embargo was removed, and he was allowed 
to assure his colleagues by letters, conveyed to them 
apparently through Spalatin, that he had been taken to 
a place of safety where he did not inform them. 5 These 
early letters are indefinitely addressed " from the region of 
the birds," or " the region of the air," or " the hilltop,"" 
or " the island of Patmos." 

The secret was so well kept that the most conflicting 
rumours as to his fate flew from mouth to mouth. That 
he had been seized and carried off somewhere in the 
Thuringian Forest was known at Worms within a week 
after the event. But where he had disappeared to, whether 
he had been captured by friend or enemy, whether he was 
dead or alive was a mystery, and the mystery naturally 
gave rise at Worms and elsewhere to the most divergent 
surmisings. Some suspected that he had been seized at the 
instigation of Aleander or the Archbishop of Maintz. 6 
Aleander saw in this inference a Lutheran device to stir 
up the people with the cry that the Romanists had violated 
the imperial safe conduct, and instinctively divined that the 
Elector " had his hand in the game " in spite of his dis- 
claimer at a sitting of the princes. 7 Others thought of 
Sickingen or Hector Beheim, a robber knight of Franconia, 
with whom the Elector was at feud. 8 Luther himself 
mentions in his letter to Spalatin a prevailing report, which 

4 Enders, iii.- 146, 150. 

6 Ibid., iii. 148 f. ; cf. 154. Luther himself sought to put his enemies 
off the scent by writing a letter to Spalatin which he should contrive to 
bring to the notice of Duke George, and which contradicted the rumour 
that his place of concealment was the Wartburg. Ibid., ni. 201-202. 

8 Kalkoff, " Depeschen," 235-237. 

Ibid,, 235 ; cf. 2ii. As late as the 6th of July, Aleander was still 
in ignorance as to his whereabouts, though he continued to suspect 
"that Saxon wolf" of concealing him Brieger, "Aleander und 
Luther," 245. 

8 " Dcpeschen," 237, 240-41. 

Behind the Veil 3 

had reached the Wartburg a few days after his arrival, that 
he had been captured by a party of friendly Franconian 
nobles. 9 Another tale purported that he had entered 
Leipzig, the day after his supposed capture, amid the plaudits 
of the people. 10 An anti-climax to this tale was provided 
in the story, equally circumstantial and, happily, equally 
false, that he had been found dead in a silver mine with a 
dagger through his body. u This story raised a storm of 
anger at Worms where the mob swore vengeance on Aleander 
and Caracciolo, who were warned by their friends that their 
lives would not be safe even in the Emperor's arms. " The 
will of the Lord be done/' piously ejaculated Aleander ; 
" it is His cause that we defend/' 12 It evoked a passionate 
response from many a pious heart all over Germany. 
Albrecht Diirer, who heard the tragic news in the Netherlands, 
bewailed in his Diary the untimely fate of " the God-inspired 
man/' " O God, if Luther is dead who will henceforth 
expound the holy Gospel so clearly to us ? " u The same 
note of passionate anxiety appears in the letter which the 
jurist and humanist, Gerbellins of Strassburg, addressed to 
Luther at Wittenberg, telling him of these sinister reports, 
and of the intense longing of himself and all good and 
learned men to hear if he was alive and at liberty to write 
to his friends. 14 This widespread anxiety was erelong dis- 
sipated by the assurance indirectly conveyed to his friends 
far and near that his disappearance was a prearranged 
device to foil the persecuting policy of his enemies. Already, 
on the 23rd May, Bucer, writing from Worms, sent a hint 
of the real facts of the case to Zwingli. " You may take it 
from me that Luther has indeed been taken captive, but 
unless I am very much deceived, not at all by his enemies. 
The thing has been admirably concealed and very prudently 
carried out/' 15 

In view of the popular passion excited by these flying 

Enders, ni. 153 u /&<*., 238- 

10 " Depeschen," 238. 12 Ibid , 238. 

13 Leibschuh, " Albrecht Diirer 'sTagebuch/' 82-84 (1884) ; Thausing, 
" Diirer J s Briefe, Tagebucher und Reime," 122. 

14 Enders, iii. 159-160, i8th May. 

18 Zwmgh, " Opera," vh. 174, ed, Schuler und Schulthess. 

4 Luther and the Reformation 

rumours, many of Meander's co-religionists were more than 
doubtful of the wisdom of the policy of persecution. " Who 
knows/' wrote Luther to Melanchthon, shortly after his 
arrival in his hiding-place, " what God will effect in His high 
purpose through this plan of concealment ? The priests 
and monks who waxed furious against me as a free man 
have now such fear of me as a captive that they are fain to 
regret and relax their former foolish zeal. They tremble 
at the growing menace of the popular hatred, which they 
know not how to escape. ... A certain Romanist has 
written to the Archbishop of Maintz, ' You have got Luther 
out of the way as you wanted. But the people are so incensed 
against us that we shall scarcely ransom our lives unless 
with lighted candles we search for him and invite him to 
return/ This may have been written in jest. But what 
if the jest turn out to be serious ? " 16 

Luther was not too happy in his enforced retirement. 
He feared, he wrote to Melanchthon, lest his disappearance 
should be regarded as a desertion of the battle. 17 He had 
only yielded perforce to the advice and will of others and 
had no greater wish than to expose his throat to the fury of 
the adversary. He had heard from Spalatin of the prepara- 
tion of the savage Edict against him and his books. But it 
will not prove the terrible thing they imagine, except in 
the hands of blind and boastful men like that Rehoboam of 
Dresden (Duke George) and his compeer, the Elector Joachim 
of Brandenburg. " God lives for ever and ever/' of whose 
anger the abominable kingdom of the Roman Antichrist 
is the horrible spectre. Meanwhile, let Philip realise his 
vocation as a minister of the Word and man the walls and 
towers of Jerusalem. 18 The difficulty of adapting himself 
to the situation, coupled with an invincible confidence in 
God, also finds expression in the letters to Amsdorf and 
John Agricola. " Here I sit a strange captive, willing and 
yet unwilling willing because God so wills it, unwilling 
because I should prefer to stand forth in behalf of the Word, 
but have not yet been found worthy. Wittenberg is hateful 

16 Enders, in. 147 

17 Ibid., in. 148. Verebtir ego ne aciern deserere viderer. 

18 Ibid , ni. 148-149. 

Behind the Veil 5 

to its neighbours (Duke George and the Elector Joachim). 
But the Lord will see to it that His time will come when He 
will laugh them to scorn. Only let us have faith in Him. 
Write how it stands with the sermons what part each 
takes in order that my hope or fear concerning the Word 
may increase." 19 " I sit here inactive and out of sorts the 
whole day long," we read in a letter to Spalatin on the I4th 
May. He was, however, not so idle as he professed, for 
he proceeds to tell him that he is reading the Bible in 
Hebrew and Greek and that he is contemplating writing a 
work in the vernacular on auricular confession, continuing 
his commentary on the Psalms and the Postille, or popular 
expositions of the stated lessons from the Gospels and 
Epistles, and completing the exposition of the Magnificat 
when he shall have received the books about which he 
had written to Wittenberg 20 A month later he tells him 
that he is at once the most inactive (otiosissimtis,i.e., free from 
official duty) and the busiest (negotiosissimus) of men. " I 
am studying Hebrew and Greek and write without inter- 
mission." He had written expositions oi several of the 
Psalms ; had finished the Magnificat, which he had begun 
before the journey to Worms, and the promised work on 
auricular confession ; had elaborated his Postille on the 
Nativity, and was hard at work on his Confutation of 
Latomus. 21 

The exposition of the 68th Psalm, the first fruit of this 
literary production at the Wartburg, was penned for the 
purpose of encouraging his friends at Wittenberg and else- 
where. The disconsolate Melanchthon had written in doleful 
strain bewailing his absence and describing the Wittenberg 
circle as sheep without a shepherd. 22 In reply, Luther sent 
a spirited message on the 26th May, reminding him how they 
had often conversed together of faith and hope in the 
things not seen, bidding him take upon him the mantle of 
Elijah, sing the song of the Lord in the night, in which he 
too will join, and not provoke Him to anger by lamentation 
and faint-heartedness. " For the honour of the Word, and 

l * Knders, lii. 151-152. 2l Ibid , iii 162, 171. 

* Ibid., hi. 154; cf, 150. Ibid,, iii. 164 

6 Luther and the Reformation 

for the confirmation of myself and others, I would rather 
burn on live coals than, half living and not able to die, rot 
away here alone. . . . Even if I perish, the Gospel will not 
perish, in which you now excel me and, like Elisha, succeed 
Elijah, imbued with a double spirit, which may the Lord 
impart to you." 23 Passages from the 68th Psalm formed 
part of the service of the Mass in the chapel of the Wartburg 
on Ascension Day and Whitsunday (gth and igth May), 
and the words, " Let God arise and let his enemies be 
scattered. Thou hast ascended on high and hast led 
captivity captive/' suggested the exposition as an appropriate 
message to his friends. The opening verse had formed the 
exordium of the papal Bull of condemnation, and Luther in 
turn adapted it to the situation. With a rather facile 
exegesis, though with increasing evidence of Hebrew scholar- 
ship, he sees in these words a prophecy of Christ and the 
resurrection and the triumph of the Gospel, in spite of its 
enemies and the difficulties and dangers of the way to 
heaven. " When Christ died, God did as if He were asleep 
and saw not the raging Jews who, as the disciples fled and 
scattered, thought that they had won the day. But God 
arose and woke Christ from the dead and rallied the disciples, 
thereby turning the tables on the Jews and putting an end 
to the glorying of His enemies." 24 

He followed it up with an exposition of Psalm 37 for the 
benefit of "the poor little flock at Wittenberg/' Like 
St Paul, who from his prison at Rome wrote epistles to 
comfort and strengthen his converts, he was anxious to 
guard them from " these wolves, the papists," who malign 
them as heretics and would fain tear them in pieces. He 
is absolutely certain that what he has taught them is the 
true and pure Gospel, for which he has borne testimony at 
Augsburg, Leipzig, and Worms, and from which his enemies 
flee as the bats and owls around the Wartburg do the light. 
They fear discussion and think that they have settled the 
matter by declaring him and his adherents Widifites, 

28 Enders, iii. 163. In this reply he enclosed the exposition of the 
68th Psalm. Mitto Psalmum istis ferns cantatum (162), with instructions 
to have it printed or circulated in manuscript. 

** " Werke," viii 4-5 

Behind the Veil 7 

Hussites, heretics. Let them rage and fulminate as they 
will. He has the Scripture on his side which his opponents 
handle as skilfully as an ass which would play the harp. 25 
With blockheads and sophists like Emser, who wrest the 
Scriptures to maintain their ecclesiastical nostrums, it is 
useless to argue. The Scripture, say they, is obscure and 
not fit for the people to read. On the contrary, no clearer 
book than the Bible has ever been written, and their distinc- 
tion between implicit and explicit faith the faith of the 
people and the faith of the expert is a mere subterfuge 
to keep the people in ignorance and submission to their 
tyranny. True, there are obscure passages. But these are 
to be read in the clear light of the Scripture as a whole, 
which enables every one who will to believe firmly in its 
teaching. Even the Fathers Jerome, Augustine, Hilary, 
for instance whom they parade as infallible authorities 
when it suits them, did not lay claim to such authority 
and recognised the Scripture as the supreme and sole rule 
of faith. Let the little Wittenberg flock cleave, therefore, 
to the Word and defy the sophists of Rome, Louvain, Paris, 
and Leipzig. Grounding on it they will no more esteem 
and fear the f eliminations of the Pope and his satellites than 
the rock does the raging billows of the sea. 26 

It is thus that Luther himself, firmly grounded in the 
Scripture as his real Wartburg, breasts the rising storm of 
persecution and strives to inspire his adherents with his 
own invincible spirit. The Bible, and the Bible alone, is his 
battle-cry, and the conviction that he stands for God and 
His Word is the real secret of the marvellous spiritual resource 
and power that radiate, in the form of those clandestine 
communications, all over Germany from the old burg on the 
height above Eisenach. His claim to a monopoly of correct 
interpretation sounds rather naive, inasmuch as his own 
exegesis is at times artlessly subjective, though here again 
his growing familiarity with the Hebrew text is very notice- 
able. He is prone to read into Holy Writ what is in his 
own mind rather than what was in the mind of the Hebrew 
seer and singer. He does not make due allowance for 

u i< \\Vrke," viii. 210-212* ' Ibid** vih. 234-239, 

8 Luther and the Reformation 

honest conviction in others, though the instances he gives of 
the ridiculous exegesis of an Emser and others in support of 
their ecclesiastical contentions certainly merit the scorn 
and contempt which he heaps upon them. But then Luther, 
with his back to the wall, is fighting for his life and his cause, 
and without this supreme belief in himself as well as in the 
Word he would have lost both. " Pray for me/' he begs 
in conclusion, " that I may become truly pious, for, that I 
must be separated from you, I would on no account do the 
papists a service and Christ a disservice by allowing myself 
to be in the least depressed by them. I am by God's grace 
still as mettlesome and defiant as I have ever been In 
body I suffer a little infirmity. But this is of no 
consequence." 27 

His infirmity was, however, more serious than he cared 
to let be generally known. He had suffered at Worms 
from an attack of indigestion. The strain had told on his 
emaciated body and the malady increased with the change 
to the Wartburg. The lack of exercise and the rich diet 
which his host insisted on providing resulted in persistent 
constipation, with bleeding from the bowels and sleeplessness 
the worst he had hitherto experienced. 28 It was accom- 
panied by fits of dejection to which he was temperamentally 
subject. 29 Whilst he was penning these courageous messages 
to his absent friends and flock, he was himself in danger of 
being engulfed in the deep waters of physical and spiritual 
misery, and was battling with the old temptation to doubt 
and despair (Anfechtung). The malady reached a crisis in 
the beginning of July when, for more than a week, his bodily 
and mental suffering became unendurable and he thought 
of going to Erfurt for medical advice. " For the last eight 
days," he wrote to Melanchthon on the 13th July, " I have 
written nothing. I neither pray nor study, partly on 
account of the trials of the flesh, partly because I am tor- 
mented with another malady. If my condition does not 
improve, I shall throw off this disguise and go to Erfurt to 

37 " Werke," vni. 240. 

28 Enders, iii. 171. 

29 Ibid., in. 163. Animi molestia nondum cessit et prior spiritus ac 
fidei infirmitas perseverat. 

Behind the Veil 9 

consult the doctors, and you will see me there. For I can 
bear this wretchedness no longer. Nay, I would suffer ten 
serious wounds more easily than this one seemingly slight 
lesion. Perchance the Lord thus torments me that He may 
force me out of this hermitage into the public arena." 30 He 
got relief from the prescription which Spalatin sent him, 81 
though he only gradually recovered and suffered from recur- 
ring attacks during the next three months. 32 It was only 
in the beginning of October that he was able to assure 
Spalatin that the disorder had yielded to the prescribed 
treatment. 33 

His recovery was facilitated by the rambles and rides 
in the neighbourhood with which, at the Warden's instiga- 
tion, he interrupted his solitary life. He sallied forth to 
gather wild strawberries on the Schlossberg and joined in 
the chase. In a letter to Spalatin on the I5th August, 
he tells of one of these parties and how, amid the snares and 
the dogs worrying the harmless hares and partridges, he was 
reminded ol the bishops and theologians who, under their 
master the devil, hunt the innocent souls of men which he 
was striving to save. He had no pleasure in this sanguinary 
business and tried to rescue a wretched hare by wrapping 
it in the fold of his mantle. Even then the dogs would not 
be denied their prey and worried it through the mantle. 
" So rage the Pope and Satan in order to destroy the souls 
I have saved, caring nothing for my efforts to rescue them." ** 
In his rides in the neighbourhood he was accompanied by 
his trusty attendant who, as Mathesius tells, was ever on the 
alert to prevent him spoiling his part as Knight George by 
relapsing into his old habits as monk and professor. He 
could not, for instance, refrain at first from laying aside his 
sword and picking up a book in the inns which they visited, 
and had to be reminded that the reading of books did not 
consort with the profession of knighthood. On one occasion 
in the inn at Reinhardtsbrunn he was actually recognised, 
and the ready-witted attendant only saved the situation 

30 Enders, Hi. 189. 33 Ibid , ni. 236. 

31 Ibid., iii. 199. 3 * Ibid., hi. 219-220. 

32 Ibid., iii. 204, 214, 216. 

io Luther and the Reformation 

by adducing a pressing engagement and hurriedly riding 
off with him M 

During these months of physical and mental suffering 
the devil was an ever present reality. Despite his emancipa- 
tion from the mediaeval religious standpoint, he retained to 
the full the mediaeval belief in magic and satanic apparitions. 
Behind the Pope, the Emperor, Duke George, Aleander, 
Eck, and other enemies lurks the devil, whose agents they 
are and who is ever lying in wait for Luther himself. In 
the eerie solitude of his apartment in the haunted old burg, 
as in his cell at Wittenberg, he occasionally makes his 
presence known in the nocturnal visitations of which he 
later discoursed in his " Table Talk." He hears him rattling 
the hazel nuts in the sack which his house attendants had 
brought him and which he kept in a closed box. When he 
put out the light and went to bed the nuts would rattle 
against the beams and his bed would shake. It did not 
occur to him that the rats might be playing hide-and-seek 
in the roof. It could only be the devil trying to disturb his 
sleep. He did not take the visitation very seriously and 
erelong fell asleep again. Suddenly he was awakened by a 
terrible racket as if a whole cartload of casks were rumbling 
down the stair outside his door. This was really very 
serious. He started up and opened the door. Nothing 
was to be seen or heard in the stairway. "Is it you, so 
be it you," he ejaculated according to the formula usual 
on such occasions, commending himself to Christ and recal- 
ling the words of the Psalmist, " Thou hast placed all things 
under his feet." 36 Again it did not occur to him that he 
had been dozing over just as the rats had reached the climax 
of their antics above the rafters or the wind had roared 
up the stairway. On another occasion Satan takes the 
form of a black dog which he dreamed or imagined he had 
found lying in his bed and had thrown out of the 
window in Christ's name, with the aforementioned formula 

36 T.R.," v. 103; Walch, xv. 2330-2331. In the " Tischreden " 
the incident occurs in a monastery at Erfurt. 

86 " Tischreden," iii. 37 (ed. Forstemann), and Weimar ed., 

v. 87. 

Renewal of the Battle for Reform 1 1 

on his lips. 37 The story of his having thrown the ink-bottle 
on the occasion of one of these satanic apparitions does not 
seem to be authentic. But on his own testimony such 
apparitions were by no means infrequent. " Believe me," 
he wrote to Gerbellius on the ist November, " that Satan 
throws himself in my way again and again in this easeful 
solitude. It is much easier to fight against the incarnate 
devil, that is against men, than against the spiritual hosts of 
wickedness in heavenly places. Too often I fall. But the 
right hand of the Most High sustains me." * " There are 
many wicked and cunning demons about me here who, as 
they say, pass the time for me and cause me trouble," 
we read in a letter to Spalatin of the same date. 89 His great 
talisman, he , tells us, when these experiences came to him, 
was the Word, and when the Word threatened to fail him he 
had recourse to ridicule. The devil could not stand this 
kind of counter-attack, and the coarser the ridicule the 
better. 40 


Despite the enforced cessation of his public activity, 
he followed with an alert interest the trend of events and 
strove to foster and direct the movement at Wittenberg 
and elsewhere. In his eagerness to resume the part of active 
reformer, he thought of leaving his solitude and establishing 
himself at Erfurt, in spite of the papal ban and the imperial 
Edict, and was only restrained from carrying out his purpose 
by the remonstrance of Spalatin and an outbreak of the pest. 41 
What he was prevented from doing in person he sought to do 
by means of a voluminous correspondence with Spalatin, 
Melanchthon, Amsdorf, and others at Wittenberg and 
elsewhere. He notes with delight every indication of 
progress from whatever quarter it came. As the prospect 
of his return recedes he urges Spalatin and Amsdorf to prevail 

S7 "T.R.," v. 87-88; Myconius, " Geschichte," 37; Kostlin- 
Kawerau, " Luther," i. 439-440. 

^ Enders, iii. 240. 40 " Tischreden," hi. 37-38. 

89 Ibid., in. 243. 4l Enders, iii. 203. 

12 Luther and the Reformation 

on Melanchthon to take his place as a preacher of the Gospel. 
He suggests that he should address the people in the vernac- 
ular on feast days and thus restore the custom of the ancient 
Church and, at the same time, wean them from the drinking 
habits and amusements usual on these occasions. He sees 
no force in the objection that he was not in priest's orders. 
In expounding the Greek New Testament to his students he 
is de facto performing the office of a priest. In any case 
he is amply entitled to follow the example of Christ Himself 
who preached in the synagogues, in boats, on the seashore, 
on the mountain. If the people call him to this work it is 
of no consequence that he has not been ordained by the 
bishop. The people need the Word of God above all things, 
and their need makes it incumbent that he should undertake 
this vocation. What is there to hinder him from expounding 
the Word to the citizens in the common tongue as well as to 
the students in Latin ? ^ He exhorts Melanchthon himself, 
who felt that his vocation lay more in the professor's chair 
and the study than in the pulpit, boldly to preach the 
grace of God and the fact of sin as the great realities. God, 
he tells him, does not save fictitious, but real sinners. In 
striving to impress on him this fact he unfortunately makes 
use of language which, if read apart from the context, is 
rather equivocal and has often been quoted by the enemy 
in discredit of his doctrine of justification. " Be a sinner 
and sin vigorously. But at the same time confide and 
rejoice still more boldly in Christ, who is the conqueror of 
sin and death and the world. As long as we live we must 
needs sin. For this life is not the habitation of righteousness, 
but, as Peter says, we look for new heavens and a new earth 
wherein dwelleth righteousness. It suffices that, through 
the riches of His glory, we acknowledge the Lamb of God 
who taketh away the sin of the world. From Him sin will 
never wrench us away even if we commit fornication or 
murddr a thousand times in one day. Think you that so 
small a price and redemption have been given for our sins 
by such and so great a Lamb ? " xi ie case j s no do^t 
hypothetical, and in his insistence on the power of God's 

42 Enders, iii. 230-231 ; cf. 233. Ibid., iii. 208-209, 

Renewal of the Battle for Reform 13 

grace to prevail against the fact of man's sin he forgets 
for the moment his distinctive doctrine that justification 
necessarily involves the moral regeneration of the believer. 
This is one of those extreme utterances to which he was at 
times prone, and one can only regret that in putting the case 
in this way he did not take time to weigh his words, even in 
a private letter to one who was not likely to misunderstand 
them. In his propensity to utter things on the spur of the 
moment Luther, it must be admitted, was at times his 
own worst enemy. 

He took a keen interest in the reorganisation of the 
University, which the Elector and Spalatin carried out 
during a midsummer visit to Wittenberg. The theological 
faculty was strengthened by the accession of Aurogallus to 
the chair of Hebrew, and of Justin Jonas to that of Canon 
Law, which he shortly after exchanged for one of Theology, 
and which Luther wished to banish from the curriculum. 44 
He thanked God that He has raised up others to fill his place. 
His colleagues had now no need of him, and his only concern 
is lest Melanchthon should overtax his strength, in spite of 
his repeated warnings, and suffer penury for lack of a 
sufficient stipend. 45 

He warmly welcomed the work of Oecolampadius on 
" Auricular Confession," the appearance of which in the 
previous April had stirred the wrath of Aleander, 46 and 
expressed his desire to have it translated into German. 47 
The perusal did not, however, render superfluous his own 
work on the same subject, which he dispatched to Spalatin 
on the loth June with the request to have it forthwith 
printed. 48 This work is the first of the attacks on the 
institutions of the Church launched from the Wartburg, in 
continuation of the polemic which the journey to Worms 
had interrupted. It is not directed against the practice 

44 Melanchthon, ' ' Opera, ' ' i . 390 f . On the Reform of the University, 
see Fnedensburg, " Geschichte der Universitat Wittenberg " (191?). 

46 Enders, iii. 190, 199, 203-204. 

46 " Depeschen," 209-210. 47 Enders, iii. 162, 180. 

48 Enders, iii. 171. Von der Beicht, ob der Papst macht habe zu 
gepieten. " Werke," viii. 140 f. The printing proceeded so slowly that 
it did not appear till the end of September. 

14 Luther and the Reformation 

of confession as far as it is enjoined by Scripture, but against 
the abuse of it as practised and enforced in the mediaeval 
Church. The actual practice, he contends, is based on a 
perversion of Scripture and is merely an ecclesiastical 
device to enslave the penitent to the tyranny of Pope and 
priest, which he denounces in his most violent mood. 
Hence the attempt, in the first part, to prove from numerous 
passages in the Old and New Testaments that it is not per- 
missible to go beyond the clear testimony of Scripture in a 
matter of this kind and introduce and enforce a usage that 
rests only on human authority. To do so is to depart from 
and distort the truth, as did the false prophets against whom 
the true prophets, Christ, and the Apostles warned. It is 
of no avail to cite the ordinances of General Councils in 
support of such usages. The ordinances of Councils like 
that of Nicaea, which, he assumes, limited themselves to the 
elucidation of the truth from the Scriptures, are indeed 
valid, inasmuch as they are in accord with God's Word. 
But in as far as Councils have legislated a multitude of 
observances merely out of their own heads, their laws 
have no authority as against that of the Word. " Therefore 
Councils here or Councils there, if what they ordain is only 
human doctrine, it is of no validity. ... I believe in Christ 
and Paul His Apostle more than in all Councils, even if they 
were more in number than the sands of the sea and the 
stars in the heavens. They are to be condemned if they do 
not base their decisions on the Word of God." 49 

He proceeds, in the second part, to examine the few scrip- 
tural passages adduced in support of the existing practice. 
He makes sport of the far-fetched and forced exegesis which 
finds in Matt. viii. 4, " Go show thyself to the priest/' and 
Proverbs xxvii. 23, " Be thou diligent to know the state 
of thy flocks and look well to thy herds/' an argument 
for auricular confession to a priest. Such silly glosses are 
more worthy of ridicule than refutation. No wonder that 
the Romanists strive to keep the people from reading the 
Bible and thus prevent them from finding out for themselves 
the lies and crass deception with which they seek to bolster 

49 " Werke," viii. 150. 

Renewal of the Battle for Reform 15 

up their unfounded pretensions. James v. 16 enjoins 
confession not to a priestly confessor, but to one another. 
John xx 22-23 only confers the power of absolution on the 
disciples and leaves confession, which it does not in fact 
mention, to the discretion of the individual Christian. 
But, says the priest, in order to absolve from sin it is 
necessary that the penitent should make known his sins. 
This, retorts Luther, is to demand the impossible, since 
no one is able to reckon up his sins. Does not the Psalmist 
say, " Who can understand his errors/' and " Mine iniquities 
are more than the hairs of my head " ? Such a demand tends 
only to misery of conscience, inasmuch as the priestly 
absolution must needs leave the penitent in doubt and 
perturbation. Moreover, the system makes him the victim 
of a priestly tyranny, which serves to enslave the soul as 
well as fill the priest's pocket and enhance his power. 
Therefore they are not to be damned who make confession 
to God alone or to a fellow-Christian as long as they do so 
with true repentance and faith. 50 

The third part is a plea for freedom from the mechanical 
and enforced observance of the ecclesiastical canon of the 
Fourth Lateran Council, which requires all Christians to 
confess once a year at least. This observance does not 
make for real reformation of life, but only fosters formalism 
and hypocrisy. The people should be drawn to confession 
and communion by the preaching of the Gospel of faith 
and repentance, and not driven by ecclesiastical enactment. 
The soul cannot be saved by mere laws and ordinances, 
but only by influencing the heart and the will. Confession 
should, therefore, be voluntary. God's grace seeks and 
requires the longing heart, not mere ecclesiastical obedience, 
and only in reliance on His grace, not on prescribed works, 
can peace of conscience be found. Moreover, the power of 
loosing and binding was given by Christ to the whole 
Christian community, not to Pope or priesthood, and it 
pertains to the community to exercise this power, as in 
the time of the Apostles and long after. He would fain 
revive the ancient practice and would rather reform than 

50 " Werke," viii, 152 f. 

1 6 Luther and the Reformation 

abolish confession, to which he attaches a high religious 
value for two reasons. It fosters self-humiliation before 
God and our neighbour, leads to the Cross by which alone 
we can find a gracious God, and it enables us to participate 
with full assurance in the promise, " What things soever 
ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Here 
we have a true echo of Luther's own experience in his search 
for a gracious God which began in self-condemnation and 
ended in the full assurance of the forgiveness of sins in simple 
trust in God's mercy and love in Christ. " O, if we knew 
how gracious it makes God that a man should thus abase 
and humble himself in His honour, we would dig up confession 
from the earth and fetch it a thousand times over. For the 
whole Scripture testifies how gracious and loving God is 
to those who thus abase and condemn themselves." 51 
" How grand and sure a thing it is to take God at His own 
word and feel that we have so strong a support and confidence 
in His truth that we may freely and boldly urge God Himself 
with His own word/' 52 

He was immensely gratified by Melanchthon's confutation 
of the fulmination against his teaching which the Theological 
Faculty of the University of Paris had at last issued on the 
I5th April. 63 " I have seen the Decree of the Parisian 
sophists with Philip's Apology," he wrote to Spalatin on the 
I5th July, " and I rejoice with all my heart." 5 * He forth- 
with determined to translate both into the vernacular, with 
a characteristic preface and conclusion, 55 and dispatched 
the translation to Wittenberg. 56 The doctors of the Sorbonne 
had discovered no less than 104 heresies in his writings and 
they expressed their opinion of their author in the current 

51 " Werke," vih. 176. 

62 Ibid., viii. 178. Luther elaborated his exegesis of Matt. vih. 4 
in the " Evangelium von den Zehn Aussatzigen " at the request of 
Duke John, the brother of the Elector, which was issued from the press 
in the beginning of Nov. 1521. " Werke," viii. 340 f. 

" Melanchthon, "Opera," i. 398 f. ("Corp. Ref."). Adversus 
Furiosum Parisiensium Theologastrorum Decretum pro Luthero 
Apologia, June 1521. 

5 * Enders, iii. 200. 

55 Ibid., iii. 190. 

64 It was finished in the beginning of Aug. Ibid., iii. 215. 

Renewal of the Battle for Reform 17 

vituperative style. Luther, it is evident from this document, 
was not singular in claiming a monopoly of the truth against 
opponents and imputing to them the worst of motives. In 
this respect he is no better and no worse than the Sorbonne 
divines who described him as one of those vipers who devour 
their own mother, the Church. He is a presumptuous 
blasphemer who claims to know better than all the Fathers, 
theologians, and Councils of the Church, as if God had 
reserved to him alone a knowledge of the things necessary 
to salvation. Such audacity and impiety can only be 
overcome by prison, ban, and fire, rather than by reason, 
and this conviction appears to explain why, in condemning 
him, they do not condescend to argue with him. They 
simply declare him an arch-heretic and blasphemer like 
Arms, Manicheus, Wiclif, Hus, and many more agents of 
the devil. Like all heretics he wrests the Scriptures to 
please himself, and in so doing has simply renewed the 
heresies of these diabolic perturbers of the Church. In 
particular, his book on the " Babylonic Captivity " is as 
bad as the Koran and can only have been written by an 
accursed enemy of the Church. They accordingly condemn 
in virulent terms the long list of articles bearing on faith 
and morals, drawn from this and his other writings, though 
significantly enough they pass over his views on the papal 
power in silence. 57 Their own reputation in this matter was 
gravely suspect in papal eyes, and the omission of this 
cardinal heresy from the list rather qualified the approval 
with which Aleander reported the deliverance to Rome. 58 

Though the Sorbonne doctors were experts in the current 
art of theological vituperation, they were greatly inferior to 
Luther in ironic retort and rough humour. " Now we see 
what our Parisian Masters are capable of when they get 
thoroughly angry. If I say that the Dean of the Paris 
Faculty of Theology and his fellow-sophists are unmitigated 
asses, I shall only give them occasion to draw up another 
article and say, ' This article is false, foolish, sacrilegious, 
unchristian, presumptuous, erroneous, heretical, and 

* 7 " Werke," viii. 268 f. 

* 8 Bneger, " Aleander und Luther,*' 237, uno solo hanno fatto male, 
che de primatu pontificis non hanno fatto mentione alcuna. 

20 Luther and the Reformation 

unwarranted oppression of conscience and an infringement 
of individual liberty, in deference to mere human tradition. 
Even the Canon Law only made its observance binding " in 
as far as human frailty would permit." 64 The accused 
was besides not conscious that he had explicitly sworn to 
observe celibacy, and had found by expenence that it was 
impossible to do so owing to the infirmity of the flesh. 
It was a matter of conscience, and with Scripture and the 
practice of the early Church to guide him, he had determined 
to free his conscience from the yoke of human tradition 
and enter into the estate of wedlock, in accordance with the 
divine sanction and ordinance. 

Carlstadt improved on Melanchthon's contention in this 
document by demanding, in an academic disputation on 
the 2ist June and in his work " Super Coelibatu," in 
amplification of his thesis on the subject, the abolition of 
celibacy for monks and nuns as well as for priests. He 
even went the length, by a forced interpretation of Scripture 
texts like i Tim. iii. 2, " The bishop must be the husband 
of one wife," of maintaining that only married men should 
be ordained as priests and demanding that those who live 
in concubinage should be compelled by the bishop to marry. 
From i Tim. v. 9, " Let none be enrolled as a widow under 
threescore years old," he not only condemned the admission 
of young persons of both sexes to the monastic life, but 
accorded monks and nuns below this age freedom to marry 
and live in wedlock in the religious houses. They indeed 
commit sin in breaking the vow of chastity. But they sin 
still more heinously in transgressing in secret this vow by 
their sexual excesses. 65 "Good God," wrote Luther to 
Spalatin on the 6th August on receiving the sheets of 
Carlstadt 's work, " our Wittenbergers will give wives even 
to the monks ! But they will not thrust a wife on me." 66 
He had himself advocated the marriage of priests in the 
" Address to the German Nobility " and was prepared 
to approve of that of his old student Bernhardi, though he 
could not help marvelling at his boldness. 67 Priestly celibacy 

84 " Opera, 1 ' i. 435. * Enders, iii. 215. 

" Barge, " Karlstadt," i. 265 f. Ibid., iii. 163, 165, 206. 

Renewal of the Battle for Reform 21 

is, he writes to Melanchthon (ist August), a mere human 
ordinance and is, therefore, not binding on Christian men. 
It is contrary to the clear testimony of i Tim. iv. 3, in 
which Paul condemns the false teachers of his time who 
forbid marriage and whom he denounces as agents of the 
devil. He would, therefore, on the ground of this explicit 
testimony, allow priests to exercise liberty in this matter. 68 
But he questioned Carlstadt's view, which Melanchthon 
shared, that monks might also exercise this liberty and was 
not satisfied with the fanciful and arbitrary exegesis of 
passages like I Tim. hi. 2 and v. 9, with which Carlstadt 
attempted to justify the marriage of monks as well as 
priests. He fears that it will expose them and their cause 
to the calumny and ridicule of the enemy. 69 Moreover, he 
doubts whether monks and nuns who have voluntarily 
chosen the celibate state and offered themselves to God 
have the right equally with priests to break an obligation 
deliberately taken, except in the case of those who have 
taken this vow before the age of puberty and without a 
due sense of what it implies. 70 In thus differentiating 
between priests and monks in this matter, he does not seem 
to realise that the former as subdeacons had come under 
the obligation henceforth to maintain chastity and explicitly 
renounced their freedom to marry. 71 From the point of 
view of ecclesiastical law, the distinction was, therefore, 
really one without a difference, and from the scriptural 
point of view the argument based on i Tim iv. 3, in favour 
of the marriage of priests, might also be used in favour of 
that of monks. At this stage, however, Luther was not 
prepared to draw this conclusion. He was, indeed, con- 
vinced that, if Christ were to return, He would break these 
chains and abolish all burdensome restrictions tending to 
hinder the salvation of souls. 72 But he has not yet dis- 
covered the explicit testimony of Scripture for which he is 

68 Enders, ni. 206-207. 

89 Ibtd.yiii 210-211; cf. 218. 

70 Ibid., 111. 206-207. 

71 See the condition of ordination as ^ubdeacon given by Kawerau, 
" Werke," vni. 314. 

78 Enders, iii. 212. 

22 Luther and the Reformation 

searching and which would enable him to give a definite 
decision on the point, though he would fain succour the 
miserable victims of the monastic system, who are tormented 
with temptations of the flesh. 73 He fears, too, the scandal 
to which the wholesale renunciation of vows will give rise 
without such a manifest warrant of Scripture. 74 In 
particular, he is very dubious as to the effects on both 
morality and social order of the argument used by 
Melanchthon, 75 that the vow of celibacy is not binding, 
simply because it is not possible for human frailty to keep 
it. Might not this argument, he asked, be used as an excuse 
for dissolving marriage and breaking all God's command- 
ments at will ? The question was so important and caused 
him such anxiety that he suggested that he and Melanchthon 
should secretly meet in some place to discuss it. 76 It 
looks, he jocularly adds, as if Melanchthon in troubling 
him with the subject were determined to have his revenge 
for his having inflicted a wife on him by forcing him also 
to enter the married state. " But/' he adds, " I will take 
good care that you shall not succeed." 77 



Meanwhile he sent him a long series of theses on the 
subject, inscribed to "the bishops and deacons of the 
Church at Wittenberg," with the promise to add an elucida- 
tion of them later. 78 He envisages it from the standpoint 
of his cardinal doctrine of justification by faith. He starts 
by quoting Paul, " Whatsoever is not of faith is sin " 
(Romans xiv. 23). This, he holds, is to be understood 

"Enders, iii. 207. Scripturam qusesimus et testimonium divinae 

td., hi. 206-207. Scandala etiam vitanda sunt, ubi non est 
manifesta scriptura pro nobis, quantumvis hcita sunt, 

75 In some supplementary sheets of his " Loci Communes " which, 
along with a letter on the subject, he sent him in the beginning of 
Sept. Enders, iii. 222. 

" Ibid., iii. 222-223 77 Rid., iii. 227. 

78 Ibid., iii. 226, 9th Sept. "Themata de Votis," " Werke," viii 
323 f. 

The Attack on Monasticism 23 

of the faith that alone justifies in virtue solely of God's 
grace and not of man's works. Those who have vowed 
themselves to the religious life in order by monastic works 
to merit salvation have totally misapprehended this funda- 
mental principle of the spiritual life. By relying on such 
works instead of on faith in God's mercy, they have grossly 
erred from the divine way of salvation and are guilty of 
infidelity and impiety towards God. There is scarcely one 
in a thousand in these days who has not taken the monastic 
vows with the object of earning thereby salvation, and it is 
probable that they would not have done so if they had known 
that they could not attain saving righteousness by this 
means. Such vows are, therefore, not binding and should 
be discarded without regard to ecclesiastical authority or 
the opprobrium of common opinion. 79 He does not, indeed, 
condemn the monastic life if adopted freely and in the right 
religious spirit. The New Testament is the reign of liberty 
and faith 80 and leaves the believer free to exercise his liberty 
in this matter. Those who, like St Bernard, have taken the 
monastic vows in a truly religious spirit may do so as long 
as they do not confide in monastic works for salvation. 
But this manner of life is liable to lead to the perversion of 
the Gospel and the perdition of souls, 81 and as practised at 
the present time it is almost universally pernicious. It 
is based not only on ignorance of true faith, but on an 
unwarranted distinction between the precepts and the 
counsels of the Gospel, which falsely exalts the monastic 
life as the state of perfection in depreciation of the ordinary 
Christian life. Moreover, it assumes a distinction between 
the ordinary Christian and the ecclesiastical orders which, 
as far as Christian life and duty are concerned, does not 
exist, and is nothing but an ecclesiastical mask. 82 The great 
test of Christian living is, next to faith, the love of one's 
neighbour and active well doing, and to bury oneself in a 
monastery and shun the ordinary duties of life, on the 
pretext of obedience to the monastic rule, is to obey Satan 

" " Themata," 43-53- 

80 Novum enim Testamenlum regnum est liberlatis et fidei, 73 

81 '* Themata, "71-102. 

82 Ibzd., 103-115, 

24 Luther and the Reformation 

rather than God and neglect the Christian law of service for 
others. The chains of monastic vows and rules, which 
stand in the way of common service, ought to be broken, 
as Samson broke the withes of the Philistines. 

In a second series specifically dealing with the question, 
whether it is permissible to vow a perpetual vow, which he 
sent a few days later, 83 he emphatically maintains the 
negative on the ground of the essential liberty of the 
Gospel. 84 All vows, he insists, must be such as are not 
incompatible with this liberty, which is by divine right and 
gift, and no vow such as virginity ought to be taken except 
on the understanding that one is free in accordance with 
the Gospel to relinquish it. 85 It is of the essence of the 
Gospel that the principle of liberty be maintained, " Nothing 
may be done against liberty, but only in behalf of liberty/' 86 
Moreover, such vows are merely of human ordinance, and 
institution, and whatever is not prescribed in Scripture is to 
be avoided. In view of the danger of the monastic life 
from the evangelical standpoint, it is far safer for those who 
have entered it to renounce it. 87 

These theses made a profound impression on his colleagues 
at Wittenberg. When the first series arrived, Melanchthon 
was sitting at dinner with Peter Suaven, Luther's companion 
on the journey to Worms, and John Bugenhagen. " These 
theses," said Bugenhagen, after reading them several times 
with wrapt attention, " will effect a revolution of the existing 
order." " They mean/' added Melanchthon, " the beginning 
of the liberation of the monks." 88 They sent both series to 
the press, from which they issued on the 8th October. The 
impression which, in book form, they produced far beyond 
Wittenberg, was deepened by the work on "Monastic 
Vows/' 89 in which he elaborated them and which he 
finished on the 2ist November. In the course of writing it 
he was, as he tells Gerbel, bringing forth " a son who should 
smite the papists, sophists, monks, and Herodists with a 
rod of iron." " So many evils does this most wretched 

83 Enders, in. 232. 8 Ibid., 34. 

84 " Werke," viii. 330 f. 8 ' Ibid., 125-128. 

85 " Themata," 1-18 8 Werke/' vni. 317, 

8 " De Votis Monasticis," " Werke," viii. 573 f. 

The Attack on Monasticism 25 

celibacy daily produce in the case of young men and women 
that nothing more hateful sounds in my ears than the 
name of nun, monk, priest, and I account the most careworn 
married life a paradise in comparison/' 90 In the dedication 
to his father he joyfully announces that his conscience has 
been liberated from the teaching and superstition of men 
in this matter. " Christ has absolved me from the monastic 
vow and has given me such liberty that, while He has made 
me the servant of all, I am nevertheless subject to Him 
alone. . . . What if the Pope shall kill me and condemn 
me to the lowest hell ? I desire nothing better than to be 
damned and never to be absolved by him/ 1 91 

This does not mean that he had determined to disregard 
his vow. It only means that he had ceased to regard it as 
an essential or even a desirable element of piety. Nor does 
it mean that he was desirous to escape from the burden of 
celibacy in order to be free to indulge the sexual appetite. 
The book was certainly not written from any such motive. 
He had resolved to remain in his present state, he wrote to 
Link after its completion. 92 Nor is his purpose merely to 
engage in an aggressive polemic against his enemies, but 
to guide those who were tormented with scruples of conscience 
and the sense of sin, under the bondage of their vows, and 
needed enlightenment and counsel. 93 He had, in fact, as he 
informed Spalatin on the 22nd November, heard that a 
number of the monks at Wittenberg had renounced their 
vows and abandoned the monastery 94 a tribute to the 
influence of his theses as well as to the preaching of the 
Augustinian monk, Zwilling. He was afraid lest they had 
done so without sufficient knowledge or reflection, and his 
anxiety had led him to pen this work in order to regulate 
and moderate the movement. 95 He regarded it as the most 

Enders, Hi. 241, ist Nov. 

91 " Werke," vni. 576. 

92 Enders, rii. 258, nam et ego in habitu et ritu isto manebo nisi 
mundus alius fiat. 

93 " Werke," viii. 577 ; cf. 666 and 668. 

94 Enders, iii. 250, and see the letter of the Prior Kelt to the Elector, 
" Opera Melanchthoni," i. 484, *2th Nov.; Nik. Muller, "Die 
Wittenberger Bewegung," 68 (1911). 

95 Ibid., iii. 250. 

26 Luther and the Reformation 

powerful and irrefutable of all his writings. 96 It is certainly 
remarkable for the skill and force, the lucidity and fertility 
of thought with which he brings his evangelical teaching 
to bear on the subject, though it should not be forgotten 
that it had been to a certain extent anticipated by that of 
Carlstadt. 97 

To this end he gives a clear and concise exposition of 
his doctrine of justifying faith versus works in the monastic 
sense, 98 and this doctrine is the touchstone of his attitude 
on the question. Monasticism, he repeats, is based on a 
complete misapprehension of the Gospel by which God in His 
grace grants the remission of sin through faith alone, and 
not through works of any kind. The notion that salvation 
can be most surely attained by taking the monastic vows 
and living in accordance with the rule of the Order is, he 
maintains, current in all the monasteries, though it is 
contrary to the views of the better representatives of the 
monastic life such as St Bernard and St Francis. 99 " Ask 
all the votaries of the monastic life why they have taken 
these vows and you will find them possessed by this impious 
notion. They conceive that the grace of baptism (by which 
the remission of sin is given through faith) is ineffectual 
and that they must take refuge from shipwreck in the life 
of penance and strive by this means not only to attain the 
good and frustrate the effects of sin, but even by a more 
abundant penance become better than other Christians. 
That this is their striving is proved by their own testimony. 
If, say they, I should not find salvation in this way of life, 
why should I subject myself to it ? " 10 So inveterate is 
this current belief that the monks even go the length of 
regarding their entrance on the monastic life as a second 
baptism, and believe that the merits arising from it are 
so great that they assure an immediate entrance into 
heaven after death and are available for the salvation of 
others. 1 

From the evangelical point of view, on the other hand, 

6 " Werke," viii. 569. " Ibid., viii. 590. 

97 Barge, i. 300. 10 Ibid., viii. 595. 

98 " Werke," viii. 593-594. 1 Ibid., viii. 598-600. 

The Attack on Monasticism 27 

this is a reversion to Jewish legalism from which Paul 
delivered Christianity. 2 In this sense the votaries of the 
monastic system are apostates from the Gospel. To become 
a monk is to deny Christ and become a Jew. 3 He applies 
to them the words of i Tim. iv. 1-2, " In later times men 
shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing 
spirits and doctrines of devils." 4 He even goes the length 
of equating monasticism not only with Judaism, but with 
Manichaeism. 5 It avails not that they seek to justify their 
legalism by distinguishing between the evangelical counsels 
and precepts. This distinction is mere quibbling for the 
purpose of justifying their stupid superstition. It has no 
basis in the Gospel. The Sermon on the Mount, for instance, 
is not a series of counsels for the exercise of this so-called 
higher life, but a series of instructions for all Christians. 
The common Christian life is the only true Christian life. 8 
Moreover, this so-called higher Christian life is a sham 
and a pretence. No class is more influenced by the common 
passions of human nature than the monks and nuns who 
neither are nor can be without concupiscence. 7 Paul, 
indeed, praises celibacy on the ground that it enables those 
who practise it to devote themselves to God's service by 
freeing them from the cares and tribulations of the married 
state, and in this sense he will not quarrel with it. But 
Paul leaves it to the free choice of the individual, and only 
in as far as it is in accord with evangelical liberty is it 
permissible, 8 This liberty specifically consists in the 
emancipation of conscience from the tyranny of works 
in the legalist sense, from the monastic penitential system, 
not from works which faith brings forth and which Christ 
operates in the believer. 9 All vows assumed in this legalist 
spirit, which thus perverts the Gospel of God's grace and 
infringes the principle of evangelical liberty, are utterly 
reprehensible and ought straightway to be renounced. 
He has now no hesitation in demanding this renunciation 
in the case of monks as well as priests, and the fact that 

8 " Werke," vih. 600-601. s Ibid., viii. 580-583. 

3 Ibid., viii. 600. 7 Ibid., viii. 585. 

4 Ibid., viii. 595. 8 Ibid., vin. 585. 

6 Ibid., viii. 597-598. * Ibid., viii. 606-607. 

28 Luther and the Reformation 

the latter have voluntarily come under the obligation of 
celibacy no longer avails as an argument in favour of its 
observance. " I would dare to absolve all monks from 
their vows and confidently pronounce that these vows are 
reprehensible and null in God's sight. Formerly, indeed, 
I was prepared to absolve only priests from the vow of 
celibacy. But on a closer study of the words of Paul in 
i Tim. iv. 1-2, I have come to see that they apply generally 
to all celibates, monks as well as priests/' 10 

He has discarded, too, the fear that the renunciation 
of such vows will prove a danger to social order and morality, 
inasmuch as evangelical liberty in this matter is concerned 
solely with the relation between God and the individual, 
not with the relation between the individual and his 
neighbour. 11 On the other hand, the monastic system, 
under the false pretext of what is called " freedom in 
spiritual things," i.e., the right of children to embrace the 
monastic life without the consent of parents of which he 
himself had wrongly made use when he became a monk 
virtually assumes the right to abrogate all social and civil 
ties and obligations. 12 

His argumentation is largely of a theological character. 
The decisive test in judging the monastic system is the 
testimony of Scripture, especially his doctrine of justification 
by faith. Hence the intensely dogmatic note of the treatise, 
the marked tendency which, however, he shares with his 
age, to see nothing but error and perversity on the other 
side. One feels here, as in many of his other works, that, 
cogent as many of his arguments are, he would have made 
out a stronger case if he had been content to eschew the 
imputation to his opponents of unworthy motives and 
wholesale wickedness on purely theological grounds. Here, 
as elsewhere, he is too prone to be the man of one idea. 
At the same time he by no means neglects to envisage the 
subject from the practical point of view, and his arguments 
from this point of view are very forcible. One of the 
strongest of them is the contention that the monastic 

10 " Werke," viii. 597 ; </. 598. " Ibid., vih. 627. 

11 Ibid., vhL 615. 

The Attack on Monasticism 29 

profession does not square with the monastic practice in 
regard to the vow of poverty, for instance. The monks 
stress the obligation of their vows and magnify their virtues 
above those of the ordinary life of men. But they do not 
really observe them and their profession is largely hypo- 
critical. Evangelical poverty consists in not being covetous 
and ministering of our substance freely for the benefit of 
others. But this vow is, in practice, largely an illusion 
and a mockery, since no class is more tenacious of its 
property and its rights and more grasping than the monks. 13 
The vow of poverty is thus really a sham Monastic poverty 
might more truly be termed abundance. 14 The monasteries 
are endowed with large possessions and offer an easy means 
of subsistence. In those monasteries where poverty truly 
reigns the applications for admission are few enough. 15 
Real poverty does not mean the possession of things in 
common, as the monks pretend, but the lack of subsistence. 
They fleece the people in order to live in ease and plenty 
and so hinder the people from succouring the truly poor 
in their midst. 16 Like locusts this multitude of lazy and use- 
less persons devour the substance of others, whilst rendering 
service and benefit to none. 

Equally objectionable from the practical point of view 
is the vow of obedience which enjoins obedience only to the 
superior of the Order, and even so only in the things enjoined 
by the rule, whereas the Gospel commands obedience to all 
in the common service of the community. 17 This separation 
from the Christian community, which leads to the neglect 
of the practical duties of life under the plea that obedience 
is better than sacrifice (i Sam. xv. 22), is not merely a 
perversion of the words of the prophet, but a travesty 
of the higher form of religious life which they profess to 
exemplify. This life consists in active well-doing for the 
service of others, not in donning a cowl, shaving the head, 
sleeping in a common dormitory, eating in a common 
refectory, giving oneself to the formal routine of religious 
exercises, whilst neglecting the active service commanded 

18 " Werke," viii. 587. l Ibid , viii. 642-645. 

14 Ibid., viii. 643. 1? Ibid., via. 586. 

16 Ibid., viii. 642. 

30 Luther and the Reformation 

by God. It is of no avail to adduce the plea of this so-called 
higher devotion to the things of the spirit. The best worship 
of God is the keeping of His commandments, 18 whereas 
the rendering of a partial obedience tinder the monastic 
rule results only in the maintenance of a multitude of lazy 
and useless people, who, like locusts, devour the substance 
of others, whilst rendering service to none and making 
the commandments of God of no effect. 19 The obedience 
of wives to husbands, children to parents, servants to 
masters, subjects to rulers is far more in accordance with 
the Gospel, which teaches us to serve all freely without 
regulation or limitation. Monastic obedience is, in the 
words of 2 Tim. iii. 5, merely " a form of godliness, whilst 
denying the power thereof." 20 

For Luther the vow of chastity is now equally invalid, 
not merely because it is contrary to evangelical liberty, 
but because his experience of the monastic life, though not 
necessarily his own personal experience, has proved that it is 
impossible to preserve it. He has from his own observation 
found the most glaring contradiction between profession and 
practice. He evidently speaks with knowledge when he 
says that many who, in immature years, have taken this 
vow have discovered that they are really incapable, by their 
temperament and the natural disposition to do the evil 
rather than the good, of keeping it, and he contends that 
in view of this indisputable fact it should only be taken 
conditionally. 21 On grounds of common sense as well as 
Scripture, celibacy, he now maintains, is a matter which 
ought to be left to the judgment of the individual, and not 
formally prescribed and maintained apart from temperament 
and experience. The law of God and nature alike is to 
increase and multiply, and it is a mistake to attempt 
mechanically to reverse this law by a rigid rule. 22 In 
deciding to abandon this vow, immaturely imposed, one is 
not breaking a divine command, for God has not imposed 
celibacy as a condition of the spiritual and moral life. 23 
His observation has convinced him that the life of solitude 

18 " Werke," viii. 625-626. Ibid., vrii. 630632. 

19 Ibid*, viii. 623-629. 2J Ibid., viii. 630-631 . 
80 Ibid., viii. 645 f. S3 Ibid., viii. 632. 

The Attack on Monasticism 31 

and mechanical religious observance is not generally favour- 
able to a chaste habit of mind. It tends, in fact, to intensify 
the passions which assert themselves with all the greater 
force as the result of artificial repression. It generally 
produces a morbid state of sexual desire, with evil physical 
and moral effects which render this so-called monastic 
chastity an impossibility. Monks and nuns, he says, are 
usually the victims of the flames of lust and self-pollution. 24 
He and many others with him had found by experience 
that the early stage of the monastic life was peaceful and 
happy. But this early experience during the year of proba- 
tion is no guarantee of future immunity from the temptations 
of the flesh and of the maintenance of the truly chaste 
mind. 25 For such, marriage is the only remedy. It is a 
natural and honourable state, and it is a lying invention that 
one cannot serve God in the married state, as they pretend. 
Celibacy, on the other hand, leads to a miserable torment of 
conscience far more than the cares of married life. 23 It 
is verily a false notion that the true Christian life is only to 
be found in a monastery. For him monasticisin has become 
in theory and practice largely a pseudo-Christian institution. 
It is not surprising that Sylvanus in a vision discovered that 
hell was full of monks ! 27 He would turn the monasteries 
into schools for the instruction of youth in faith and religious 
discipline until they reach mature age. 28 Whilst leaving the 
individual free to decide for himself and not condemning 
the monastic life, if the principle of evangelical faith and 
liberty is maintained, 29 he concludes that, confiding in the 
Gospel, these vows may safely be renounced and a return 
made to the liberty of the Christian faith. " Let us do the 
right through good report and ill. The Lord judges the 
peoples of the earth with equity. Let every man be a 
liar ; let God alone be true." 30 

With these words he sends out this manifesto in which 
he sets forth with such argumentative force the evangelical, 
in opposition to the mediaeval conception of the Christian 

" "Werke," viii. 649. 28 Ibid., viii. 641. 

25 Ibid., viii. 660-661. 2 Ibid., viii. 616. 

a Ibid., viii. 665. 30 Ibid., viii. 54, 666-668. 

37 Ibid., viii. 657. 

32 Luther and the Reformation 

life. It is a challenge all along the line to the dominant 
but effete monastic system and a trumpet call in behalf of 
emancipation from this system in accordance with the 
teaching of Christ and Paul, and to a certain extent the 
dictates of reason and natural law. Luther's Christianity 
and his humanity alike have become too large for the limits 
of the cloister with its concentration on self, its legalist 
conception of God and religion, and its narrow outlook on 
life and the world. In spite of its pronouncedly theological 
standpoint, the work is a truly human document It 
consecrates the whole of human life as a service of God, 
inspired by faith and love of one's neighbour, in opposition 
to monastic supernaturalism and formalism. In view of the 
far-reaching effects of this principle in the sphere of the 
practical life, the attack on monasticism is as much a land- 
mark of the evangelical movement as was the attack on 
the scholastic theology, the papal absolutism, and the 
sacramental system of the Church in the sphere of doctrine. 
In the development of Luther's thought the " De Votis 
Monasticis " deserves to take rank with the " Commentary 
on Romans " and the " Babylonic Captivity." 

It is hardly surprising that the cautious Elector hesitated 
to launch this new bombshell against the old system by 
sending it to the printer at Wittenberg, in accordance with 
Luther's directions to Spalatin 31 Spalatin kept back the 
manuscript, instead of forwarding it to Wittenberg, and it 
was only in deference to Luther's energetic insistence, coupled 
with the threat to write an even more violent philippic, 32 
that he gave way, and the work at length appeared in 
February 1522. w He was clearly becoming impatient of 
these gagging tactics, which only intensified his sense of 
the impotence which his exile at the Wartburg imposed on 
him. If he could not act, he was determined that neither 
the Elector nor Spalatin should assume the right to dictate 
what he should write or print. He had, he wrote to Spalatin 
on the gth September, too often practised self-restraint 
towards his opponents at their instigation. The Erasmic 

31 Enders, iiL 250; cf. 252. 3 " Werke," viii. 565-566. 

38 Ibid , hi. 252-253. 

The Attack on Monasticism 33 

style of controversy effected nothing and only confirmed 
the Romanists in their incorrigibility. The prophet Jeremiah 
was a better guide in this matter than Erasmus. If he had 
followed his own inclination at Worms, instead of the advice 
of Spalatin and other friends, he would have spoken very 
differently. " I very much fear and am troubled in my 
conscience that, yielding to your advice and that of other 
friends, I repressed my spirit at Worms and did not show 
myself an Elijah in the presence of these idols. They 
would hear a very different tone if I should once more stand 
in their presence/' 34 

Meanwhile the ideas on the subject to which he had 
given expression in his theses, and of which the work was 
the elaboration, had already borne fruit in the monasteries. 
" If," he had written, " the monks knew that only by 
faith is salvation attainable, would they not forthwith 
conclude, what necessity is there for taking these vows and 
becoming a monk ? " 35 The sequel speedily brought the 
answer. At a Chapter of the Augustinian Order convened 
at Wittenberg by Link in the beginning of January 1522 
and attended by those favourable to Luther's side of the 
question the decision was a foregone conclusion. He had 
taken care to prompt both Link and Lang beforehand as 
to the policy to be adopted. 36 He did not approve of the 
precipitate and tumultuous secession from the Wittenberg 
monastery, and would rather that renunciation should take 
place with mutual agreement and concord. But he would 
recall none against his will and would accord full liberty to 
depart or remain. " Certain I am that you will not do or 
suffer anything to be done against the Gospel even if aU 
monasteries are to go under. I do not think you can 
prevent the departure of those who wish to go, and the best 
plan to adopt at the forthcoming Chapter is, following the 
example of Cyrus in the case of the Jews, to issue a public 
declaration granting liberty to go or stay, expelling no one 
and retaining no one by force/' 37 The Chapter, professing 

34 Enders, iii. 229-230. 

85 " Werke," viii. 596; cf. 603. 

86 Enders, iii. 256-258, i8th and 2oth Dec. 
37 Ibtd., iii. 258. 

34 Luther and the Reformation 

to be guided solely by Scripture and not by human tradi- 
tions, and proclaiming the evangelical principle that whatever 
is not of faith is sin, accordingly conceded to all members 
of the Order liberty to continue in or renounce the monastic 
life. A vow contrary to the Gospel is no vow but an 
impiety, though no one should make use of this liberty from 
carnal motives but solely on conscientious grounds. Those 
who decide to continue in the monastic life may retain the 
monastic habit and rule. In the matter of the retention 
or the abrogation of ceremonies, respect should be had 
to the weaker brethren and charity observed in the spirit 
of Paul who became all things to all men, though the 
Kingdom of God does not consist in eating and drinking, 
but in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. 
Begging and masses for the dead in return for money are, 
however, interdicted in deference to the Apostolic command 
to abstain from all appearance of evil. Those who are 
qualified shall teach the Word of God publicly and privately ; 
the others shall engage in manual labour. 38 The decision 
was thus in keeping with Luther's mind on the matter in 
preference to that of extremists like Zwilling who had 
demanded the radical abolition of the monastic system. 
Practically, however, it effected this result as far as the 
Augustinian Order at Wittenberg was concerned. When 
Luther returned in the spring of 1522, Prior Helt was the 
sole occupant of the monastery. The provision of 100 gulden 
to each of the retiring monks had facilitated the process of 
evacuation. 39 


Carlstadt again took the lead in agitating the question 
of communion in both kinds. In an academic disputation 
on the iQth July he not only claimed the right of such 
communion for every Christian, but maintained that it is 

38 " Opera Melanchthom," i. 456-458, wrongly dated Oct. 1521. 
N. Miiller, " Die Wittenberger Bewegung," 147 f. 
89 Hausrath, " Luther's Leben," i. 514. 

Communion and Abuse of the Mass 35 

sinful to partake of the bread alone and not of the wine. 
" We are not Hussites, but true Christians who take the 
cup as well as the bread." Only in so doing does the Christian 
fulfil the ordinance of Christ, and it would be more salutary 
not to take communion at all than to take it in one kind. 40 
In another disputation held three days later he attacked 
the ceremonial of the Mass and demanded its trenchant 
reform. 41 The actual agent of this reform was, however, 
not Carlstadt, but Gabriel Zwilling, a native of German 
Bohemia and a member of the Augustinian Order, whose 
Bohemian origin doubtless contributed to make him an 
ardent votary of his teaching. Though inferior to him in 
theological erudition he was gifted with a fiery popular 
eloquence, and his sermons on the subject packed to over- 
flowing the monastery chapel, and, it would seem, also 
the parish church. His audience included professors and 
students as well as townsfolk, and Melanchthon was a 
regular hearer. So deeply was he impressed by these 
sermons that he took part along with his students in a 
celebration of the communion in both kinds in the parish 
church on St Michael's Day (2Qth September). 42 Zwilling's 
hearers spoke of him as " a second Luther " (alter Martinus) 
whom God had sent to take the place of the exile at the 
Wartburg. The excitement reached a climax on the 6th 
October when the impassioned preacher delivered a long 
harangue from the monastery pulpit, in which he denounced 
the adoration of the Host as idolatry and contended that 
the Mass was not an offering anew of the body of Christ in 
satisfaction for sin, but a commemoration of His death 
which He had instituted for the confirmation of our faith, 
and which ought to be celebrated in accordance with His 
institution. 43 Whereupon the majority of the monks refused 

40 Barge, " Karlstadt," i. 290-291. 41 Ibid.* i. 292. 

42 See the student Helmann's letter to a friend in Breslau, 8th Oct., 
" Theologische Studien und Kritiken " (1885), 132-135. See also 
Nik. Miiller, " Wittenberger Bewegung," 15 f. The statement has 
been questioned by Kolde, " Luther," li. 567, but is accepted by Barge, i. 
312, and Kawerau, " Luther's Werke," viii. 400, and " Luther's Ruck- 
kehr von der Wartburg," 66. 

* s " Studien und Kritiken," 134-135, " Corpus Reformatorum," 
i. 460; cf. 466; Nik. Muller, 28. 

36 Luther and the Reformation 

to say Mass in the traditional form, and their sympathisers 
among the students and the citizens determined to receive 
the communion only in both kinds. 44 The monks persisted in 
their refusal in spite of the remonstrances of representatives 
of the University and the Chapter of the Castle Church, 45 
and the intervention of the Elector who, on hearing of the 
incident on the 8th October, sent his chancellor, Briick, 
to deal with the situation. The chancellor appointed a 
Commission of professors and members of the Chapter to 
investigate, but he evidently did not take the incident 
very seriously. In the conclusion of his report to the Elector 
on the nth October he expressed the opinion that the 
monks would not long remain refractory, since they would 
erelong feel the consequences of their refusal to say Masses 
for the dead in their kitchen and cellar and would think 
better of it. 46 His cynical prophecy proved, however, to 
be premature. On the following Sunday, the ijth October, 
the indomitable Zwilling again inveighed before an over- 
flowing audience on the abuse of the Mass in a harangue 
lasting two hours, and supplemented it after the midday 
meal with another lasting an hour, " so that all who were 
present were amazed." 47 He was ardently supported by a 
number of Augustinian monks from the Netherlands, and 
the innovators became so insistent in their demand for 
communion in both kinds that Prior Helt, in order to evade 
this innovation, was fain to prohibit the celebration of Mass 
in the meantime. 48 

The excitement was intensified by another disputation 
in the University, in which Carlstadt, while insisting on the 
concession of the cup, now took the side of moderation, 49 

44 " Studien und Kritiken," 135 ; " Corp. Ref.," 460. 

45 " Corp. Ref.," i. 460. 46 Ibid., i. 460-461. 

47 Letter of Burerius to Beatus Rhenanus, i8th Oct., " Zeitschrift fur 
Kirchen Geschichte," v. 326; Nik. Muller, 33. 

48 " Corp. Ref.," 1.475. Helt to the Elector, 3othOct. ; Nik. Muller, 

49 " Z.K.G.," v. 326. Burerius thinks that Carlstadt did so in order 
the better to bring out all that could be said on the question. Others 
think that he was playing the part of the weathercock. Barge defends him 
against these suppositions and attempts to reconcile his somewhat 
reserved attitude on this occasion with that of the theses of I9th July. 

Communion and Abuse of the Mass 37 

and Melanchthon and Jonas upheld the radical view. " We 
must at last make a beginning/' argued Melanchthon, " other- 
wise nothing will be done. He who has once put his hand 
to the plough must not look back." 50 The report which 
the Commission sent to the Elector on the 20th October 
amply justified the demand for a reform of the Mass. As 
currently celebrated, "it is one of the greatest sins on 
earth." As originally instituted, it was a commemoration 
and sign of Christ's death for the forgiveness of sin, " not 
a good work whereby an offering is made to God for oneself 
and others " This is an unwarrantable and utterly perverse 
assumption of the blind papists. The multiplied celebration 
of Masses is a mechanical performance which bad priests 
undertake for the sake of money, and which burdens the 
conscience of good men. In particular, Masses for the 
dead ought to be abolished, though private Masses in which 
the priest celebrates alone may be allowed to continue in 
deference to weak brethren. Otherwise the original institu- 
tion ought to be restored and communion in both kinds 
established in accordance with the express direction of 
Christ. In conclusion the Commission, assuming the right 
of the Elector as head of the State to remedy ecclesiastical 
abuses, exhorts him to take a hand in this reform in accord- 
ance with the Gospel and pay no heed to the outcry of 
" Hussite " or " heretic " 51 

The Elector, it appeared, was by no means prepared to 
act on this exhortation. In the face of the Edict of Worms 
it was necessary to refrain as far as possible from further 
religious agitation and avoid innovations that could only 
aggravate the danger for himself and his subjects accruing 
from his determination not to execute the Edict. To 
countenance the demand for the reform of the Mass and other 
abuses would be to court the active enmity of his immediate 
neighbours, Duke George of Saxony and the Electors of 
Brandenburg and Maintz, and risk the outbreak of a 
religious war. The situation was undoubtedly a difficult 
one, and a wary attitude, besides being in accordance with 

50 Nik. Muller, 47-48 ; Barge, i. 323. 

" " Corp. Ref.," i 466-470; Nik. Muller, 35 f. 

38 Luther and the Reformation 

his predilection for a cautious diplomacy, seemed the only 
alternative from the political point of view. Hence the 
instruction to his councillor, Dr Beyer, who replaced Briick 
as negotiator, to submit the question to all the members 
of the University and Chapter for judgment (25th October). 
The matter, he was instructed to remind them, concerned the 
common weal of Christendom and could not be precipitately 
decided by a few Wittenberg theologians for the whole 
Church. If the reform in question was really grounded on 
the Gospel it would undoubtedly make headway and could 
be accomplished with the common Christian consent. 
Moreover, there was the practical consideration that the 
abolition of the Mass would deprive the churches and 
monasteries of the endowments originally granted for this 
purpose and involve the Reformers in the charge of spoliation. 
In addition, such a measure would inevitably provoke 
discussion and tumult which were at all hazards to be 
avoided. 52 

The renewal of the discussion only led to a division of 
opinion between the University and the Chapter. Whilst 
the conservative majority of the latter declared against 
the proposed reform, the former, in its final report on the 
I2th December, renewed in more insistent terms its demaud 
for abolition. 53 

Meanwhile Luther had been taking a keen interest in the 
discussions at Wittenberg. He had himself, he wrote to 
Melanchthon on first hearing of the agitation at the beginning 
of August, been considering the question of restoring com- 
munion in both kinds and had determined to take up this 
reform before all others on his return. 54 He had already 
dealt with the subject in the " Babylonic Captivity," in which 
he indicated the right of the Christian to the cup as well as 
the bread, though he was prepared to submit to the tradi- 
tional practice on the rather questionable assumption that 
Christ had not made the use of either obligatory. This was 

53 " Corp. Ref.," i. 471-474 1 Nik. Muller, 50 f 

63 Ibid., K 493 f. ; Nik. Muller, 84 f. Some of the professors of the 
Faculties of Arts, Law, and Medicine declined to vote on the ground 
of their incompetence and left the decision to the Faculty of Theology. 

54 Enders, iii 208. 

Communion and Abuse of the Mass 39 

the position which he still maintained in the letter to 
Melanchthon, and he controverted the view of Carlstadt 
that it was sinful to communicate only in one kind, whilst 
approving a return to the original institution. On one 
point he has decidedly made up his mind. He will never 
again celebrate private Mass. 55 He expressed to Spalatin 
his disapproval of the daily Mass said by the priest at the 
Wartburg, and wished that these private celebrations should 
be diminished if they cannot be at once abolished, since 
the Mass is by institution a communion and a commemora- 
tion which ought to be accompanied by the preaching of 
the Word and celebrated publicly in the presence of the 
congregation. 56 The communications both written and 
verbal, which came to *him from Wittenberg, 57 led him in 
the beginning of November to put his reflections on the 
subject on paper for the purpose of instructing and confirm- 
ing his fellow-monks at Wittenberg. Hence the work 
" On the Abrogation of Private Mass," 5S which he dedi- 
cated to them and dispatched to Spalatin on the nth 
November. 59 

He greatly rejoices in the movement they have begun, 
which must expose them to opposition and calumny. He 
knows by experience how difficult it is to challenge conven- 
tion and oppose single-handed the doctrines and institutions 
of centuries. " How often my trembling heart beat within 
me at the thought of this formidable argument of theirs, 
' Are you alone wise ? ' ' Has all the world erred and lived 
in ignorance so many centuries ? ' ' What if you are wrong 
and you drag along with you so many to eternal damnation ? ' 
But Christ at length confirmed me with His own sure and 
faithful words, so that my heart no longer trembles or 
palpitates, but defies these papistical arguments no less 
than the rocky shore bids defiance to the rage and tumult 
of the waves/' 60 A conscience grounded on the Word of 

55 Enders, iii. 207-208. 

66 Ibid., iii. 237, 7th Oct. 57 See " Werke," vin 411. 

58 " De Abroganda Missa. Privata," " Werke," vin. 411 f. German 
trans, by Luther himself, " Vom Misbrauch der Messe," ibid., viii. 
482 f. 

59 Enders, hi. 247. * " Werke, " vin. 412. 

40 Luther and the Reformation 

God as on the rock affords us the infallible certainty of 
which we are in quest. 61 

He starts by attacking the priestly power and denying on 
scriptural grounds the papal claim to make laws contrary to 
Scripture, in virtue of a succession from Peter whom Christ 
appointed as His immediate successor, and to whom He con- 
fided His priestly power. This assumption is a lying invention 
of the devil. The New Testament knows of only one high 
priest who offered Himself for us to God. 62 It knows of no 
priestly order under an earthly high priest, but only of a 
spiritual priesthood of all Christians in the sense that they 
can directly approach God, pray to Him, and instruct 
others. 63 He adduces the relative passages in support of 
this contention and challenges Pope and priesthood to produce 
a single iota of evidence to the contrary. 64 The Parisian 
and Louvain theologians, Emser and others, who have 
attempted it have produced only the figments of their own 
arrogance and blasphemies. 65 With the fall of this pretended 
priesthood the priestly Mass necessarily becomes nothing 
but impiety and idolatry. It has no scriptural warrant 
and is based on the traditions of men against which Christ 
and the Apostles inveigh. 66 It is vain to defend it by saying 
that it has been ordained by the Church and that what the 
Church has ordained has been inspired by the Holy Spirit. 
What certainty have we that priests and doctors have not 
erred in this institution ? Only what the Word of God 
manifestly proclaims is to be received as certain, and the 
mere ordinance of the Church, or of those ordaining in its 
name, is not necessarily authoritative apart from the 
Word. 67 The New Testament knows of sacrifice, but only in 
the spiritual sense of offering ourselves body and soul to 
God in the mortifying of the flesh as our reasonable service 
(Romans viii. 13 ; xii. i ; i Peter ii. 3). This spiritual 

""Werke," viii. 412. 

62 Ibid. t viii. 415. Unum et vero solum est nobis sacerdocium 
Christi, quo ipse obtulit sese pro nobis et nos omnes secum. 

88 Ibid., viii. 415. Hoc sacerdocium spirituale est et omnibus 
Christianis Commune. 

64 Ibid., viii. 415-416. 66 Ibtd,, viii. 418 

65 Ibid , viii. 416-417. 7 Ibid., viii. 419-420. 

Communion and Abuse of the Mass 41 

sacrifice is not the office of shaved and anointed priests, 
but of all Christians who walk the way of the Cross in self- 
mortification. 68 Here again he challenges his opponents 
to produce a single passage from the New Testament in 
which the Mass is represented as an offering, a sacrifice to 
God. It is only the memorial of Christ's sacrifice which it 
celebrates. 69 Moreover, in the New Testament, the ministry 
of the Word, the prophetic function is common to all who 
have received a message from God and is not the exclusive 
right and privilege of any class of functionaries. Has not 
Christ said, " They shall all be taught of God " ? (Theodidacti, 
John vi. 45). 70 Paul, indeed, commands women to be 
silent in the Church and thus seems to deny that the ministry 
of the Word is common to all. Paul's prohibition, he 
answers, applies only to speaking " in the Church," not 
elsewhere, and is meant to preserve order and decency in 
the public assembly. Otherwise his command would be 
contrary to the testimony of the Spirit who spoke through 
the daughters of Philip and in the canticle of the Blessed 
Virgin herself, 71 

He then proceeds to examine the Apostolic writings in 
order to show the antithesis between the New Testament 
ministry and the Roman Catholic priesthood with its 
graded hierarchy, its pomp-loving and pampered dignitaries. 
He pictures this antithesis in vivid and sinister colours and 
makes ample use of his gift of objurgation. This hierarchical 
development is the work of Satan pure and simple, who has 
craftily succeeded in thus transforming the Church into a 
travesty of the Apostolic institution, and has deceived even 
those good men who, he admits, have miserably been 
seduced into accepting this travesty as Christian and 
Apostolic. On the clear testimony of Scripture this develop- 
ment with its distinction between cleric and laic, its assump- 
tion of the indelible character of the clergy, its difference 
of status and rank, its lust of pomp and power and luxury, 

68 " Werke," viii 420-421. 

* 9 Ibid., viii. 421. Christus semel se ipsum obtuht non denuo ab 
ullis offem, sed memoriam sui sacrificii voluit fieri. 

70 Ibid., viii. 422-424. 

71 Ibid., viii. 424-425. 

42 Luther and the Reformation 

its greed and hypocrisy, its prohibition of the marriage of 
the clergy, etc., is totally contrary to and subversive of the 
simple evangelical ministry of the Apostolic age, when 
bishop and presbyter designated the same functionaries 
and these functionaries differed in nothing from other 
Christians except in their specific office of ministering the 
Word and sacraments, just as a magistrate differs in no 
respect from other citizens except in his office of ruling the 
city. 72 " Thus by the agency of the devil have they violated 
the Church and the Word of God and by the guile of the 
serpent have seduced the minds of Christians from the 
simplicity and purity of Christ/' 73 

He next examines the passages relative to the institution 
of the Lord's Supper in disproof of the traditional conception 
of it, which his opponents strive to substantiate by appealing 
to the Fathers, the Church and its General Councils, the 
papal decretals and the scholastic divines. His line of 
argument is largely that of the " Babylonic Captivity," 
whilst steering clear of the scholastic philosophy and theology 
and restricting himself to the evangelical evidence. From 
the historic point of view, his plea for a return to the primitive 
practice is a very forcible one. He condemns the superfluous 
and meticulous observances regulating the celebration, such 
as the exact repetition of the prescribed formulas, fasting 
beforehand, the handling of the elements only with the 
anointed fingers of the priest, etc. He can find no trace of 
these in the original institution. Christ and the disciples 
did not, for instance, celebrate the Eucharist fasting, but 
after partaking of the evening meal. He will not insist on 
the abrogation of these customs if the individual conscience 
Is left free in this matter, and the Church refrains from placing 
the omission of them in the category of mortal sins. 74 In 
instituting the rite, Christ observed the utmost simplicity 
and we are bound to follow His example in obedience to the 
command, " This do in remembrance of me." To transform 
it into a sacrifice is to radically change and vitiate His 
institution. 75 The Sacrament is the New Covenant by 

72 Werke," viii. 426-430. 7 * Ibid., vih. 431-434. 

78 Ibid., viii. 430. 76 Ibid., viii. 434-436. 

Communion and Abuse of the Mass 43 

which Christ assured the forgiveness of sin through the 
shedding of His blood, and the believer in commemorating 
His death does not offer a sacrifice, but simply accepts in 
faith His promise and pledge of forgiveness. 76 Both 
grammar and common sense can read no other meaning 
into the words of institution. He himself, however, hardly 
observes the rules of grammar and common sense in assuming 
that in instituting this memorial He actually changed the 
bread and wine into His body and blood. 77 In this respect 
there is still in his thought a remnant of the magical influence, 
the superadded notions which he condemns so drastically 
in the current view and practice. 78 

To regard the Sacrament as a sacrifice, instead of a 
pledge of God's love in Christ, is to beget doubt and fear 
instead of confidence and joy. For who can be sure that 
this so-called sacrifice is acceptable to God ? From his 
personal knowledge he avers that this anxiety and un- 
certainty is the prevailing feeling among the priesthood. 79 
In this, as in other respects, the current religion is for 
Luther a religion of fear and torment of conscience in 
contrast to the joy and confidence which the gospel of 
God's grace and love of which the Eucharist is the promise 
and pledge begets in the believer. " O sweet and potent 
promise in which His body and blood are given as the 
pledge of our salvation and the remission of sin. Behold 
these are the blessings which are shown forth to you in 
the Eucharist. Think you that these can be exhibited by 
an angry and implacable God, and not rather by a most 
indulgent, loving, and solicitous Father? What greater 
thing can He possibly promise than the forgiveness of sins ? 
And what is the remission of sin but grace, salvation, 
heirship, life, peace, eternal glory in God Himself ? But for 
you, O mad and impious papist, how different is the God 
you would propitiate by this sacrifice of yours in the Mass ! 
Desist, I beg you, from your worthless propitiations. There 
is only one unique propitiation by which God is appeased, 

7 " Werke," viii. 436-437. 

77 Ibid., viii. 435, mutat panem in corpus suum ; cf. 438. 

78 Ibid,, viii. 437-439. 

79 I&id.t viii. 441-442. 

44 Luther and the Reformation 

so that no hope is left you in any other sacrifice or device 
except in this one only . . . and faith alone in His body 
given and blood shed avails." 80 In vain they seek refuge 
in the reflection that it is incredible that Luther alone can 
be right and that all others have erred. Let them remember 
the prophet Micaiah and what happened to King Ahab 
who refused to listen to him. 81 

To the Canon of the Mass he opposes the plain words of 
the Gospel, and he condemns its sacrificial formulary as the 
adversary of the Gospel. The appeal to Gregory the Great, 
Bernard, Bonaventura and others who approved and used 
it is not valid against the clear testimony of Scripture. 
Nothing under heaven is more dangerous than this appeal 
to the example of the saints, if unsupported by Scripture. 
The saints, on their own confession, were all sinners and 
liable to error. Witness the " Retractions " of Augustine. 
Even the great Fathers were no infallible oracles to be 
blindly followed without the exercise of one's own judgment. 
The wretched superstition which uncritically accepts the 
legends of the saints and mere human doctrines, to the 
neglect of God's Word, and of the principle of the Apostle 
to prove all things has filled Christendom with error and 
lies. No less superstitious is the belief in purgatory and 
the eternal droning of Masses for the dead which ought 
to be utterly abolished and the primitive institution 
restored. 82 

He adds a terrific indictment of the Papacy as a travesty 
of both the law and the Gospel, the patron of every vice and 
transgression forbidden in the Decalogue. 83 One feels that 
on moral grounds at least this travesty deserves and has 
invited this unmitigated castigation. The solitary seer, 
hidden in the Wartburg by a cautious Elector and chafing 
under the restraint of his pugnative spirit, lets himself go 
on paper at least without the slightest consideration for 
anything like judicial moderation. Theological bias as well 
as moral indignation is doubtless reflected in this passionate 
indictment. For Luther the worst sins of the Pope and the 

80 " Werke," viii. 442. 2 Ibid., viii 449-457. 

81 Ibid., viii 443. Ibid., viii. 460 f. 

Communion and Abuse of the Mass 45 

bishops lie in the realm of faith rather than of morals. 84 
In this respect he still labours under the age-old belief, 
reflected so tragically in ancient and mediaeval ecclesiastical 
history, that a theological opponent must needs be a monster 
of iniquity. This imputation his opponents were only too 
prone to apply to him, and on the same assumption he pays 
them back with compound interest. He hurls his accusations 
against them in the passionate conviction that the beliefs, 
which he holds to be deadly error, must necessarily produce 
the most baneful moral effects. This is for the Church 
historian an all too familiar feature of theological controversy 
in periods of intense feeling and thinking in matters of 
faith. In fairness even to Antichrist who sits in Peter's 
chair at the beginning of the sixteenth century, we must 
make due allowance for the theological bias as well as for 
the volcanic temperament of the Wartburg seer, which 
underlies this terrible indictment. Even so, there was 
material enough in the state of things ecclesiastical under 
the degenerate papal regime to substantiate this foregone 
verdict, and with this material to work on, Luther's com- 
mand of invective and his passionate conviction went straight 
for the heart of the Antichrist. In spite of its proneness to 
exaggeration and declaration, one cannot but feel the 
marvellous fecundity of thought, the sheer moral and 
spiritual force which were welling forth from this dynamic 
spirit in the solitude of the Wartburg the waves of a religious 
revolution. By this mysterious hand were being traced the 
writing on the walls of the modern Babylon, as he termed 
Rome. " God hath numbered thy kingdom and finished it. 
Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting " (Dan. 
v. 26-27). 

In conclusion, he exhorts his brethren at Wittenberg to 
go forward in spite of the outcry of the papists, " Look 
yonder, at Wittenberg, the worship of God has ceased ; 
the Mass is no longer celebrated; they have all become 
heretics and madmen." He hints that they may well also 

84 Werke," viii. 464. Sed hoc detestor, hoc pugno quod, cum sint 
vice pastorum lupos agunt et verbo rationeque ipsa docendi mandata Dei 
solvunt, non solum minima sed ipsa maxima et prorsus universa, et sic 
docent ac perdunt homines, Hie non in mores, sed in fidem peccatur. 

46 Luther and the Reformation 

turn their attention to that monument of superstition, that 
Bethaven or house of idols in the Church of All Saints, 
with its huge store of relics on which the Elector had spent 
so much of his people's substance. How much better to 
have spent it on the poor of Saxony ! With this hit at the 
foolish zeal into which the papists have misguided him, he 
adroitly mingles appreciation of the Elector's equitable 
rule and the service he has rendered to the cause of the 
Gospel. They have reason to thank God that he is no 
tyrant or fool, but a lover of the truth, under whom they 
can the better finish the work they have begun. He reminds 
them of the old prophecy which he heard as a boy, that the 
Emperor Frederick would erelong deliver the Holy Sepulchre 
at Jerusalem. The prophecy is at last being fulfilled in 
" our Frederick," whom the Electors assembled at Frankfurt 
chose as Emperor. For the sepulchre to be delivered is the 
Holy Scripture which the papists have buried and which, 
under this Frederick, has been brought forth into the light. 
What if he should glory that he himself has been the angel 
or the Mary Magdalen that has been at the opening of the 
Holy Sepulchre and has made Wittenberg another Jerusalem ! 
But enough of this word play. In very deed it has been given 
to them to look upon the pure grace of the Gospel, and it is 
theirs zealously to spread the light that others may see it 
too. Only let them avoid discord and have respect to the 
weakness of others in the spirit of the Apostolic injunction 
that it is good not to do anything whereby thy brother 
stumbleth, whilst following the dictates of conscience without 
respect to the person or masks of men. 85 

5 " Werke," viii. 475-476. Barge (" Karlstadt," i. 334 f.) sees in 
this philippic an incitement to the forcible repression of the Mass. Karl 
Muller, on the other hand, emphasises the passages counselling 
moderation in disproof of Barge's conclusion (" Luther und Karlstadt," 
23, 1907). At all events the spirit of the work was bellicose enough. 



WHILST advising his brethren to act considerately, Luther 
was evidently at this stage in full sympathy with the active 
reform party at Wittenberg. He was, in fact, by no means 
satisfied with the Elector's attitude towards this party and 
his dissatisfaction was intensified by what he deemed his 
subservience, on grounds of expediency, to the Archbishop 
of Maintz. The pointed reference to the Elector's 
" Bethaven " at Wittenberg was doubtless suggested by 
the fact that the archbishop had proclaimed an indulgence 
in connection with an exhibition of the relics in the collegiate 
church at Halle. To judge from the catalogue, the collec- 
tion included thousands of articles dating back to the days 
of Moses and coming down to those of St Thomas of 
Canterbury, and invested with an indulgence efficacy which 
was good for a truly fabulous number of years in the world 
to come. This pious fraud drew crowds to take advantage 
of the spiritual benefits to be derived from a visit to the 
exhibition, coupled with fervent prayer and a contribution 
to the Church. From these contributions the archbishop 
hoped to pay off his debts and found a new University as 
a rival to that of Wittenberg. 1 Verily, Luther had some 
excuse for indulging in these diatribes against " idolatry " 
which crowd his controversial works and sound so excessive 
to the more delicate modern ear. Here was the archbishop 
at his old trade of selling the forgiveness of sins by practising 
on the superstition of the people ! And here were the people 

1 See Welters, " Der Abgott zu Halle" (1876), and Hausrath, 
" Luther," i. 48of. 


48 Luther and the Reformation 

as ready as ever to be gulled and fleeced by this wolf in 
sheep's dothing ! No wonder that Luther waxed furious 
and vowed to smash " that idol at Halle/* in spite of the 
diplomatic caveats of the Elector conveyed to him through 
Spalatin. " I will not be held back/' he wrote on the 
7th October, " but will publicly and privately go for that idol 
of the archbishop with his brothel at Halle." 2 He set to 
work and dashed off a philippic " Against the Idol at 
Halle/' 3 

Meanwhile the archbishop had attempted through his 
secretary, Capito, to induce the Elector to intervene, and 
Capito had written to Luther himself begging him to desist from 
his purpose. 4 Capito also paid a visit to Wittenberg in the 
endeavour to influence Luther through Melanchthon. 5 As the 
result of this diplomatic pressure came a letter from Spalatin 
on the nth November, forbidding him, in the Elector's name 
and in the interest of the public peace, to write against 
the archbishop. Luther replied with a point-blank refusal. 
" I will rather break with you and the prince and all men. 
If I have resisted the Pope, why should I give way to the 
Pope's creature? A fine thing indeed to talk about not 
disturbing the public peace whilst you suffer the eternal 
peace of God to be disturbed by these impious and sacrilegious 
proceedings. Not so, Spalatin, not so, prince. But for the 
sake of Christ's flock, this most grievous wolf must be 
resisted with all our might as an example to others/' He 
accordingly sent him the manuscript to be forwarded to 
Melanchthon for revision and publication, and bluntly told 
him to beware of keeping it back or trying to persuade 
Melanchthon from complying with his wishes. His purpose 
is fixed and he will listen to no argument to the contrary. 
Did Christ and the Apostles seek to please men or flinch 
before the opprobrium of the Gospel ? What if the students 
have pelted a mendicant monk from Lichtenberg in the 
streets of Wittenberg, about which Spalatin had evidently 
written him as an example of the danger of public com- 
motion ? Who can hope to bridle such occasional outbursts ? 

8 Enders, iii. 237 ; cf. 240. 4 Enders, iii. 238. 

" Wider den Abgott zu Halle." * Corpi Rcf>> j . ^ ^ 

The Halle " Idol " 


The Gospel is not to be repressed because of such youthful 
escapades. 6 

Spalatin, nevertheless, retained the manuscript and 
Luther determined to challenge the archbishop directly on the 
subject in a letter on the ist December, which Melanchthon 
forwarded to Capito on the nth. 7 Its tone was very different 
from that of the two letters which, he reminds him, he had 
humbly addressed to him on two previous occasions. It is 
an ultimatum which bluntly treats him as a culprit and 
threatens to expose his licentious private life, as well as his 
conduct as a churchman, as the penalty of non-compliance 
with his demand. Mayhap he has assumed that, now 
that Luther has disappeared from the arena and is under 
the imperial ban, he need have no fear of being called to 
account by him. He is welcome to his assumption. " But 
I beg your grace to know that I will do what Christian love 
demands, in spite of the gates of hell, let alone popes, 
cardinals, and bishops/' Now that the abuse of indulgences 
has been proved to be nothing but fraud and villany, let 
him cease to rob and deceive the poor people and show 
himself a bishop instead of a wolf. From the small fire 
which a poor mendicant monk kindled there has grown a 
conflagration in which God has passed judgment on the 
Pope, whose power grows daily smaller, though at first all 
the world believed that the monk had undertaken a forlorn 
enterprise. The same God lives still and will know how to 
cast down a Cardinal of Maintz, even if four emperors were at 
his back. Let him beware of despising and provoking Him 
whose might knows no measure. This monk will strive so 
mightily with God that He who has brought low the Pope 
will begin a play with the cardinal that he wots not of. 
He, therefore, gives him due warning. If he does not 
forthwith suppress the idol at Halle, he will expose him 
before the whole empire and show it the difference between 
a bishop and a wolf. He adds the demand that the bishops 
shall allow the clergy to marry and not tyrannically make use 
of their power to penalise those who have entered or shall 
enter into honourable wedlock. At least let them cast 

Enders, iii. 246-247. ' " Corp. Ref.," i. 492. 

50 Luther and the Reformation 

the beam out of their own eyes and drive away their 
own harlots before beginning to separate pious married 
women from their husbands. In regard, in particular, to 
the archbishop's own sins against chastity, he will no longer 
observe silence, though he has no inclination or desire to 
expose his shame and dishonour in this respect. But unless 
in fourteen days' time he has a satisfactory answer, his 
book against the idol will go forth to the world. 8 

Within the prescribed interval (reckoning from the 
nth December) the archbishop's reply, dated 2ist December, 
was dispatched, along with a soothing epistle from Capito. 
The archbishop now addresses him as " Dear Doctor " and 
assures him that he has accepted his letter in good part and 
avers that he had already removed the cause of it. He 
adopts the tone of a penitent and promises to act henceforth 
as becomes a pious churchman and Christian prince, as far 
as God shall lend him His grace and strength to do so as a 
poor sinner who can do nothing of himself. " I know well 
that without God's grace there is no good in me, and I am 
as profitless and stinking a piece of filth as anyone else, 
if not more so/' He is more than willing to suffer brotherly 
and Christian reproach and to comply with Luther's demands 
and make amendment for the future, in reliance on the 
help of a merciful God. 9 

His abject capitulation is a striking evidence of the moral 
influence which the outlaw in the Wartburg had come to 
wield during the interval since he penned his humble petition 
against the abuse of indulgences to the same high dignitary 
four years before. This influence was due partly to his 
own powerful personality, partly to the fact that behind 
this personality was the force of an awakened public opinion 
which it materially contributed to foster, and which the 
archbishop had only too good reason to fear. Moreover, 
behind Luther lurked the spirit of social restiveness which 
was finding expression in popular declamation against the 
overgrown and ill-used wealth, the extortion and tyranny 
of ecclesiastics who were feudal magnates as well as 
degenerate churchmen, and for whom the day of reckoning 

8 " Werke," 53, 95-99 (Erlangen ed.). * Enders, iii. 266, 

The Halle "Idol" 51 

was about to dawn in social as well as religious revolution. 
Assuredly it was high time to profess penitence and promise 
amendment if the revolutionary spirit, on social as well as 
religious grounds, might perchance thereby be conjured. 

Luther had grave doubts about the sincerity of this 
abject confession, and he was very unfavourably impressed 
by the attempt of Capito in an accompanying epistle to 
remove them. Capito, it seems, had been striving, after the 
manner of Erasmus, to attain the same result as his bellicose 
friend in the Wartburg. He had reason to believe that he 
had made considerable progress in winning the archbishop 
for his evangelical teaching, and besought him not to 
endanger the good work by a precipitate and uncompromis- 
ing attitude. 10 The reference to Erasmus was hardly fitted 
to predispose him to self-restraint. He had recently, in a 
letter to Spalatin, condemned what he deemed the time- 
serving attitude of both Erasmus and Capito, u and he now 
tells him that he can by no means approve the method of 
promoting the cause of the Gospel by conniving at and 
excusing the reprehensible conduct of princes, merely in 
order not to provoke a conflict. This can only result in 
flattery and denial of the truth. The spirit of truth cannot 
but reprove and offend, as did Christ whose example we 
are to follow. This is, indeed, to be done in the spirit of love 
and in order to save souls. But it pertains to the ministry 
of the Word, in the first place, to root out and destroy and 
scatter. Does not Jeremiah pronounce a curse on those who 
do the work of the Lord deceitfully (xlviii. 10) ? If the 
cardinal really means what he writes, he would hail his 
letter with the greatest joy and would be ready to prostrate 
himself at his feet. If, however, as he suspects, he is 
playing the hypocrite, he will not be deceived by these 
tricks of Satan. The fact that he has released the married 
priest of Kemberg, whom he had imprisoned, is no proof to 
the contrary. For he has only released him after compelling 
him to separate from his wife, contrary to the Apostolic 
teaching, whilst shutting his eyes to the abominable clerical 
immorality prevailing in his dioceses of Maintz, Magdeburg, 

10 Enders, iii. 259-263. " Ibid., in. 229-230, 9th Sept. 

52 Luther and the Reformation 

and Halberstadt. His conduct in depriving Knaxdorff, 
the reforming preacher at Magdeburg, is equally inconsistent 
with these professions, and has intensified his doubts as 
to his sincerity. " We will uphold true religion," he tells 
him in conclusion, " with all our might, whether it offends 
heaven or hell. There you have Luther, as you have always 
had him, your most yielding slave if you are a friend of piety, 
your most inveterate opponent if, along with your cardinal, 
you persist in making a mockery of sacred things." 12 He 
will not answer the cardinal's letter as long as he is unable 
to decide whether he should denounce him as a hypocrite 
or praise his sincerity. Capito bore him no grudge for this 
plain speaking, and during a visit to Wittenberg in March 
1522 a reconciliation took place between them 13 

" Vague and uncertain reports " 14 of events at Wittenberg 
caused him such anxiety that he determined to pay a visit 
in order to learn at first hand how matters actually stood. 
It was a dangerous venture, since the route lay in part 
through the territory of his arch-enemy Duke George, alias 
" the Rehoboam of Dresden " as he called him. Accom- 
panied by his trusty attendant, 15 he descended on the 3rd 
December at an inn at Leipzig, and is said to have been 
recognised, despite his disguise, by a woman in the public 
room before setting forward on his journey. 16 Next day 
he rode incognito into Wittenberg and furtively alighted 
at the house of Amsdorf in which Melanchthon was also 
quartered. On the previous day the students, reinforced 
by a number of their fellows from Erfurt and by a party 
of the citizens, had burst into the parish church " with 
knives under their cloaks/' wrested the Mass books from 
the hands of the priests who were about to say Mass, and 
driven them from the altar. Other priests, who in the 
early morning were celebrating Mass in honour of the 
Virgin, had been pelted with stones. On the following 

ia Enders, iii. 279-284, iyth Jan. 1522. 

18 See letter of Burerius to Beatus Rhenanus, " Z.K.G.," v. 333. 
14 Enders, iii. 250. 

16 The contemporary account given in " Z.K.G.," xxh. 124, says he 
rode with three horses. 

16 Seidemann, " Leipziger Disputation," 99-103. 

The Halle " Idol " 53 

day, that of Luther's arrival, they renewed the demonstra- 
tion against the Mass by invading the Franciscan monastery 
and using threatening and abusive language. As a precau- 
tion against these threats the Town Council was fain to 
send a guard to protect the monastery, 17 in front of which 
the mob again demonstrated on the 6th. 18 In spite of this 
electric atmosphere, Luther spent several happy days among 
his friends and expressed himself in a letter to Spalatin as 
completely satisfied with all that he had seen and heard. 19 
He evidently did not regard these student escapades so 
tragically as did the Town Council in its reports to the 
Elector. The only vexing experience he records was the 
discovery that Spalatin had not sent the manuscripts of 
his philippics against monasticism, the Mass, and the idol 
at Halle to Melanchthon for publication, as he had directed. 
Several months before he had taken it very ill that the 
Elector had intervened to prevent the public disputation on 
a series of theses on auricular confession, which he had sent 
to Wittenberg, and had at the time expressed his irritation 
to Spalatin in no measured terms. 20 He now penned an 
angry letter from Wittenberg to the delinquent who, in 
consequence, while retaining " The Idol," was fain to send 
the other two to be printed. " I am determined to have 
what I have written printed, if not at Wittenberg, certainly 
elsewhere, and if the manuscripts have been lost or retained 
by you, my mind will be so embittered that I will write 
much more violently." n 

He relaxed so far as to agree to defer the publication 
of " The Idol " in the meantime. But he strongly protested 
against the policy of subordinating the cause of the Gospel 
to political expediency. " For the Lord lives in whom 
you, as is the way with courtiers, have no faith unless He 
shall moderate His works to suit your convenience. . . . 
I beseech you, if it is the truth that celibacy and monkery 
are condemned by the divine Word, as is not doubtful, 

u Corp. Ref.," i. 488 f ; Nik. Muller, 73 f. 

18 Boehmer, " Luther im Lichte der Neueren Forschung," 120. 

lf Enders, lii. 253. Omma vehementer placent quae video et audio. 

20 Ibid., iii. 193, I3th July; cf. 199, I5th July. 

81 Ibid., iii. 252-253, 

54 Luther and the Reformation 

why is it not permissible to attempt and carry out the 
contrary ? Are we only to dispute without end concerning 
the truth and always refrain from carrying it into effect ? 
If we are to accomplish nothing more than we have hitherto 
done, we should cease teaching the truth altogether." 22 
Evidently he was determined, as the result of his visit, to 
force the politicians at Lochau to abandon their elusive, 
temporising policy and face the question of instituting a 
practical reformation. 


At the same time his observation of the revolutionary 
spirit on the way to Wittenberg had impressed him with 
the imminent danger of a widespread upheaval on social as 
well as religious grounds, and before setting out on the 
return journey he had resolved to address to the people a 
manifesto against precipitate revolutionary measures. 23 
Throughout these months of solitary vigil in the Wartburg 
rumour and his own reflections have borne in on his mind 
the spectre of " some fearful tragedy which Satan has in 
store for Germany/' 2 * Seer-like he perceives the gathering 
clouds that portend the thunderstorm of a rising against 
the dominant system in the Church, and, it may be, the 
State, and he ever and anon warns his enemies to beware 
of provoking the judgment of God. A series of riots at 
Erfurt in the spring and summer of 1521, in which the 
clergy were roughly handled, was symptomatic of the 
religious passion which his evangelical teaching and his 
excommunication and outlawry had quickened over a large 
part of the empire. More furtive, but still more ominous, 
was the widespread aspiration for emancipation from the 
oppressive feudal system in the masses, which this teaching 
tended to intensify, if it by no means originated. For the 

22 Enders, iii. 254-255. 

83 Ibid., iii. 253. Dorainus confortet spiritum eorum qui bene 
volunt, quamquam per viam vexatus rumore vario de nostrorum quorun- 
dam importunitate, prsestituerim publicam exhortationem edere quam- 
pnmum reversus fuero ad eremum meam. 

84 Ibid., iii. 230. 

The Warning Against Revolt 55 

social revolutionary spirit was an inheritance of long 
standing which it did not create and which mistook in him 
its prophet. The masses had, nevertheless, some reason 
to see in him their emancipator from social oppression as 
well as ecclesiastical abuse and error, and his disappearance 
had only intensified the determination to have it out with his 
enemies and theirs. He could denounce the rampant evils 
in both Church and State with equal verve on occasion, 
and did not always measure the consequences of his invec- 
tive. He by no means approved of the use of violence in 
behalf of either religious or social reform and expressed 
his disapproval of the Erfurt riots. 25 But he took occasion 
to point out the madness of the Romanists in ignoring then- 
significance in the face of the signs of the time. "It is 
obvious, as Erasmus writes, that the people neither can nor 
will bear longer the yoke of the Pope and the papists. . . . 
Hitherto they have sought to increase their power by force 
and oppression. But whether they can maintain this 
oppression we shall erelong discover by experience." 26 
Certain he is that if the Pope persists in repressing the 
Gospel, Germany will not be without a violent upheaval, 
and the sooner he attempts it, the sooner will he and his 
creatures perish and Luther return from the Wartburg. 
Karsthans, i.e., Jack Mattock, the peasant, is awake, and 
Germany has many Jack Mattocks, he adds ominously in 
reference to the popular diatribe under this title against the 
parsons, which had appeared in the previous year. 27 The 
same foreboding appears in the dedication of his work on 
" Auricular Confession " to Franz von Sickingen. Let the 
papists take warning betimes from the fate of the Canaanites, 
who spurned Joshua's offer of peace and were annihilated 
in consequence. The people will not indefinitely bear their 
tyranny and he disclaims all responsibility for the conse- 
quences. All his efforts to reach a peaceful understanding 
have been in vain. Force is their only alternative, and the 
time is at hand when they will call for peace in vain. Another 
will teach them, not like Luther with epistles and words, 
but with deeds. 28 

25 Enders, iii. 153, 158, 202. S7 Ibid,, iii. 164. 

" Ibid.> iii. 153. afl " Werke," viii. 138-139- 

56 Luther and the Reformation 

It was the unmistakable portents of the coming up- 
heaval, which he noted on the way between the Wartbuig 
and Wittenberg, that led him on his return to pen his 
" Faithful Exhortation to all Christians to guard themselves 
from Tumult and Revolt/' He is not sorry to hear of the 
alarm of the papists who have so shamelessly oppressed 
the people in times bygone and have given Jack Mattock 
ample cause to let them feel the weight of his flail and dub. 
But let them fear more the wrath of God, whose judgments 
they have provoked, and who will destroy them by the power 
of His Word. In this matter God works by His Word and 
Spirit, not by the sword. The falsity and lies of the Anti- 
christian Papacy have been disclosed, and men have only 
to understand the truth and the reign of Antichrist will 
surely fall. The duty of initiating and carrying through 
a reformation belongs to the secular Government and the 
Estates, 29 not to the comman man. What is done by such 
constituted authority in forbidding what is contrary to the 
Gospel and enforcing obedience is not revolt or revolution. 
Whilst it has the right to compel the acceptance of necessary 
reform, it should eschew violence against the person and 
not make use of the sword in the service of religion. Popular 
revolt, on the other hand, is inadmissible. It cannot achieve 
the betterment it seeks. " For revolt has no reason in it and 
usually does more mischief to the innocent than to the 
guilty. Therefore no revolt is right, however just the 
cause. It results in more damage than betterment. Hence 
the institution of government and the power of the sword 
to punish the wicked and protect the good. Herr Omnes, 
the revolutionary multitude, on the other hand, fails to 
discriminate and allows itself to be hurried into the extreme 
of injustice. Be guided, therefore, by the powers that be. 
So long as they do not act and command hold heart, hand, 
and mouth in check and attempt nothing on your own 
account. If you can influence them to action, you may do 
so. But if they will not, neither may you, and if you 
nevertheless do so, you are guilty of wrongdoing and are 
much worse than the other party. I hold and always will 

a * Die weltlich Ubirkeit und Adel, die Fiirbten und Herren. 

The Warning Against Revolt 57 

hold with the party that suffers from revolt, however unjust 
the cause it represents, and against the party that excites 
revolt, however just the cause, since revolt can never occur 
without innocent bloodshed and damage." 30 

Moreover, revolt is a device of the devil in order to 
discredit the cause of the Gospel. Hence the outcry of the 
papists over the Erfurt riots, which they falsely ascribe to 
his teaching. " Those who rightly study and understand 
my teaching do not resort to revolt. They have not learned 
it from me. That some do so under the pretext of our name, 
how can we help this ? How much have the papists done in 
Christ's name which He not only forbade, but which dis- 
honours Him ? " 81 Shall they, then, undertake nothing for 
the Gospel if the Government declines to act ? By no 
means. Let them follow his example and spread the light 
of truth as the mouthpiece of Christ. " Have I not done 
more harm to the Pope, bishops, parsons, and monks with 
the word alone and without the sword than all the emperors, 
kings, and princes with all their power have ever been 
able to do ? May not I and every one who speaks the 
Word of Christ freely claim to be His mouthpiece ? Certain 
I am that my word is not mine, but His. ... It is not our 
work which is now moving the world, for it is not possible 
that man alone can begin and achieve such a movement. 
It has come to pass without any plan or counsel and it will 
go on without these, and the gates of hell shall not hinder 
it." 32 " Spread and help to spread the Gospel ; teach, 
speak, write, and preach that human ordinance is nothing ; 
prevent, counsel that none may become priest, monk, or 
nun, and that whoever is in this state may forsake it ; give 
no more money for bulls, candles, bells, pictures, churches, 
but proclaim that a Christian life consists in faith and love. 
Go on doing this for a couple of years and you will see what 
will become of Pope, bishops, cardinaJs, parsons, monks, 
nuns, bells, steeples, masses, vigils, cowls, shaven crowns, 
rules and statutes, and the whole swarm and vermin of the 
papal regime. They will vanish like smoke." ^ 

M " Werke," viii. 680. ** Ibid., viii. 683. 

n Ibid., viii. 681. 83 Ibid., viii. 683-684. 

58 Luther and the Reformation 

At the same time he warns against mere superficial 
bluster and pretension on the strength of having read a 
couple of pages or listened to a single sermon. Such 
pretentious talkers plume themselves on being " Lutherans/' 
just as the opposite party boast themselves to be papists. 
" I beg that people will leave my name out of the business 
and call themselves Christians, not Lutherans. What is 
Luther ? This teaching is not mine. I have not been 
crucified for anyone. St Paul would not suffer it that the 
Christians should be called Pauline or Petrine, but only 
Christians. How could I, a poor, ill-odoured maggot sack, 
entertain the idea that Christ's children should call them- 
selves by my unsavoury name ? Not so, dear friend, but 
let us cast away party names and call ourselves after Christ, 
whose teaching we possess." u 

Finally, whilst showing a firm front to the incorrigible 
enemies of the faith, let them bear with the scruples of the 
weak about the Mass, etc., for their sake and that of the 

It may seem strange that Luther, himself the greatest 
rebel against constituted ecclesiastical authority, the most 
aggressive protagonist of new ideas, should thus appear in 
the rfile of the thorough-going pacifist. One is inclined to ask 
whether the " Exhortation " was not a belated tribute to 
the Elector's policy of wait and see, a surrender to Spalatin 
and the politicians, whose mouthpiece Spalatin was in his 
letters to the Wartburg. Had the aggressive religious leader 
been himself suddenly transformed into the calculating 
politician ? The conclusion does not necessarily follow, 
and there is no real reason for doubting, on this ground, 
the sincerity of this manifesto on behalf of moderation. 
For years he had been striving to rouse and educate public 
opinion against the unref ormed Papacy. He had done so at 
times in very inflammatory language which gleams like 
lightning here and there in the works in which he challenged 
and defied the power of the Roman Antichrist. He had 
regarded himself as the instrument impelled by God to 
prepare the way by his teaching for an evangelical Ref orma- 

34 "Werke," viii. 685. 

The Warning Against Revolt 59 

tion. But whilst proclaiming the truth and staving to 
win adherents for it, his root conviction had been that 
God Himself through the power of His Word would establish 
it. In the " Address to the Nobility " he had so far improved 
on this indefinite programme as to appeal for the active 
intervention of the State, in view of the failure of the Church 
to reform itself and the futility of expecting such a reform 
on the part of the ecclesiastical authorities. He had based 
this appeal on the divine institution of the State and the 
principle of the priesthood of believers, which entitled the 
State to secure the commonweal in the religious as well as 
the civil sphere. 

This theory also underlies the " Exhortation " and it 
rules out the irresponsible action of the people in either 
sphere. While the people may and ought to agitate for 
reform, it can only be accomplished by its lawful organs the 
public authority as directed by the prince and the various 
classes and bodies on which legislation and administration 
devolve. He himself claims and has exercised the right of 
agitation within legal limits and recognises this right in every 
member of the community. His writings and his cor- 
respondence with Spalatin and others furnish ample evidence 
of the exercise of this right. But beyond this the individual 
may not go, and it is because of the danger of irresponsible 
violence on the part of his adherents and the revolutionary 
spirit seething in the people that the initiation of actual 
reforms by constituted authority is so emphatically stressed 
in the " Exhortation." It was certainly not written merely 
in the interest of the governing classes or for the purpose 
of backing up the halting policy of the Elector and his 
councillors. It was not the offspring of either servility or 

Whether it was altogether logical or feasible is a 
different question. One feels as if the writer of those burn- 
ing appeals in behalf of individual liberty and right in the 
" Babylonic Captivity," for instance, has lost somewhat of 
the daring and the passion of an earlier time, and is besides 
rather deficient in logic. To disown and defy the tyranny 
of Antichrist and stress the right of the individual mind and 
conscience to independence and freedom, and then inculcate 

60 Luther and the Reformation 

the duty of suffering and deny the right actively to use this 
liberty to overthrow this tyranny seems rather tame as well 
as illogical. Similarly one feels as if the subordination of 
the individual to the State is too absolute and hardly 
consistent with the emphasis on individual right, which is a 
fundamental of his teaching. In this respect Luther's 
view is rather limited. He concerns himself with liberty 
in the religious sense and does not extend it beyond the 
things of the spirit. Whilst agreeing with his general 
principle that revolution has usually no reason in it, this 
does not necessarily involve the conclusion that the indi- 
vidual is to do nothing but preach, pray, and suffer, refrain 
from all initiative in deference to constituted authority, 
and be content to yield it unquestioning obedience. He 
does not seem to realise that the tyranny of the State might 
be or become as intolerable as the tyranny of Antichrist, 
and if he has a remedy against the latter in the exercise of 
the power of the State, he seems to have none against the 
former. The great religious reformer has evidently not the 
genius of the political or social reformer and is apparently 
prepared to accept the status quo in the State, whilst revolting 
and waging war against that prevailing in the Church, 

Moreover, whilst relying on the power of an enlightened 
public opinion to bring about, through the State, a trans- 
formation of the Church, it is rather naive to assume that 
the Christian community has not the right to reform itself 
by organised and combined effort. Suppose the State 
refuses to perform its function and remains inactive or takes 
the side of the old order, what will happen to the reform 
movement ? Is it sufficient to rely, in the face of a powerful 
organisation like the Papacy and the mediaeval Church, 
on the indefinite power of the Word, great as its effect may 
be on the conscience and heart of the believer, if the believer 
may not put his hand to the task of asserting and vindicating 
his convictions ? One wonders whether, even in the religious 
sphere, the prophet of Wittenberg has also the gift of organis- 
ing the movement he has initiated and does not defer too 
much to State intervention in this matter. 

The New Evangelism 61 


It would be a mistake to see in the " Exhortation " any 
slackening in his bellicose zeal against the Papacy. Any 
doubt on this head is dispelled by the defiant philippic which 
he hurled at the papal chair in the shape of an Address to 
the Pope prefixed to his translation, with comments, of the 
Bull, Ccena Domini, in which the Pope annually cursed all 
heretics and other evil-doers at Easter. In that of the 
preceding Easter (1521), Luther and his adherents were 
included in the list of those thus publicly damned. In 
response, the heretic sends at the beginning of 1522 to His 
Holiness his New Year's Greeting in the sardonic effusion 
which he entitled " The Evening Guzzle of the Most Holy 
Lord the Pope." 35 The effusion cannot be said to be in 
the best of taste. For Luther Rome has become the object 
of unmitigated contempt and this contempt he seeks to 
impart to the people in terms that would catch the popular 
ear. The Latin of the Bull, which it has cost him such 
trouble to put into intelligible German, is worthy of a 
kitchen boy and can only have been written when the 
Pope had supped too well. He trusts the Pope will give 
him a cardinal's hat or a bishopric for the pains he has 
taken in dressing up this drunken Latin in respectable 
German. The translator ought also to get drunk in order 
to do justice to the original. The bad language of the 
Bull affords additional evidence of the drunken condition 
of its author. For what else should one expect of a drunk 
man but that he should curse and swear against all the 
world without rhyme or reason. He proceeds to adduce 
more proofs of the Pope's maudlin unreason in the detailed 
comments on the various articles of the Bull, in which he 
points out, with stinging sarcasm, the glaring contradictions 
between its arrogant claims and lordly tone and the humility, 
the lowly and loving spirit of Christ and the Apostles. 
Discarding in conclusion the buffoonery of the preface and 

" " Werke," viii. 691 f. 

6 2 Luther and the Reformation 

the comments, he reads the Pope and the papists a plain- 
spoken lecture on the Gospel which teaches not to curse 
but to love one's enemies, and on the parody of Christianity 
which Roman greed and arrogance seek to uphold by force 
and terror. He quotes from the Vulgate the words of Paul, 
Radix omnium malorum avaritia, " The love of money is the 
root of all evils/' and sardonically remarks that the first 
letters of these four words spell " Roma." He adds an 
exposition of the loth Psalm which, at the risk of being 
himself accused of a forced exegesis, he takes as a forecast 
of the wickedness and tyranny of the Roman Antichrist. 

He was not content to rely on the popular pamphlet 
or the controversial treatise for the furtherance of the 
evangelical cause. The Word itself being for him the great 
agent in overthrowing the Papacy and its institutions, it is 
essential to instruct the people in the Word if the Gospel 
is to assert its power in the regeneration of the Church and 
the world. To this end he had, some time after his arrival 
at the Wartburg, undertaken the task of writing in the 
vernacular a series of sermons (Postille) on the passages 
from the Gospels and Epistles which were read on Sundays 
and Feast days throughout the year. 36 On the igth 
November he dedicated the collection, which covered the 
passages from the Gospels and the Epistles from Christmas 
to Epiphany, to Count Albert of Mansfeld, and prefixed to 
it " A Short Instruction on what we should seek and expect 
in the Gospels." 37 He followed it up with a translation of 
the Latin Advent sermons (Advent-pastille) which he had 
written and sent to the press for the benefit of preachers 
before the journey to Worms, and which he now revised 
and enlarged in the vernacular for the benefit of the people. 38 

Gospel preaching in the evangelical sense begins with 
Luther. He deplores the lack of such preaching and 

36 Enders, iii. 171, 190, 204, 214, 218, 220, 235, 240; cf. " Werke," 
viii. 343, where in the dedication of the Evangelium von den Zehn 
Aussktzigen (lyth Sept.) he refers to the accumulating Postille. 

37 " Werke," x., Pt. I. 1 These sermons fill the whole of this volume 
of his works. 

38 Enders, ni. 250, 256, 258. This series, which he completed towards 
the end of Feb. 1522, is given in " Werke," x., Pt. II. 2 

The New Evangelism 63 

denounces the fables and scholastic subtleties with which 
the parsons and monks delude and mislead the people. 
" One blind man leads the other and both fall into the 
ditch." 39 He claims that he has rediscovered the Gospel, 
and his object in these sermons is to disentangle it from the 
load of human doctrines with which the priesthood and the 
schoolmen have overlaid it. Hence the polemic against 
the current conception of the Gospel which finds expression 
in these sermons, though the controversial element is only 
incidental. Nor is the claim without foundation. He 
undoubtedly strikes a new note, inasmuch as he bases his 
message solely on the Word of God, as he interprets it, in 
opposition to the mediaeval Church. No one but Luther, 
or one taught in Luther's school, could have so preached. 
Moreover, apart from the distinctive matter of these sermons, 
the manner of them is characteristically Lutheran. They 
reflect the personality of the preachei all through. The 
preacher has no audience before him, for he is buried in the 
solitude of the Wartburg. All the same, he writes just as 
if he were addressing an ordinary congregation in the Saxon 
vernacular. There is no rhetoric, no attempt at mere oratory, 
for he is uttering thoughts, convictions on which, he is 
absolutely convinced, his own salvation and that of his 
hearers depend. But this strength of conviction imparts 
to his discourse a spontaneous eloquence, an incisive, arrest- 
ing power of appeal, a directness and clarity of expression 
which only a preacher aflame with the prophetic fire and 
gifted by nature with an utterance adequate to his message 
can attain. Such a preacher does not study effect. He only 
expresses himself in the conviction that he speaks God's 
message, as did the prophets and Apostles of old. To be 
thus convinced was undoubtedly the secret of the power of 
these sermons. 40 

At the same time, they have other features which 
contribute to explain this power. The humanist has dis- 
placed the schoolman. Luther has made solid progress in 
the knowledge of the original languages since the time when 

39 " Werke," x,, Pt, I. 1 , 37 ; cf. 50, 54, HO, ii, etc. 

40 On Luther's power as a preacher, see Garvie, " The Christian 

64 Luther and the Reformation 

he began to expound the Bible to his students at Wittenberg. 
He has studied the passages he expounds in the original 
Greek, and he shows a remarkable skill in expressing the 
meaning of the original in the vernacular. He has an 
extraordinary gift, which not many scholars possess, of 
making himself understood by the common man. He is a 
master of simplification, of popular exposition, in the best 
sense of the term. He uses the popular proverb and aptly 
illustrates his theme from the life of the people. Himself a 
son of the people, he strikes a democratic note which reflects 
a warm sympathy with and an understanding of the common 
man. He never loses an opportunity of showing how worthy 
is the common life lived in a Christian spirit and of reminding 
his hearers that the world and its wealth only too surely 
tend to deflect the soul from God and eternity. 41 His 
distinctive theology is reflected in these sermons. But it 
is entirely divorced from the subtlety and the jargon of the 
schools. It is no mere system of belief. It is brought into 
living touch with religion. It is experimental. It reflects 
his personal experience of the problem of salvation in the 
face of God's righteousness and man's sin. It is doctrinal 
in the sense that it seeks to inculcate the teaching of the 
Word in the solution of this problem. In this sense it is 
dogmatic enough, for, like Paul, the preacher is concerned 
first and foremost with the answer to this problem and 
knows of no other possible solution than that proclaimed by 
the great Apostle of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. It 
is emphatically Christo-centric, as Luther, following the 
Apostle, has apprehended Christ. " To preach the Gospel 
is nothing else than to bring Christ to men and men to 
Christ." tt He knows nothing of the distinction between 
the Gospel of Christ and the Gospel about Christ, of any 
development of the teaching of Jesus by Paul or other 
Apostle. The whole Bible, in fact, from beginning to end 
is a testimony to Christ. In spite of his undoubted scholar- 
ship he is still apt at times to read more into his texts than 
they really contain, though his exegesis is in the main 
relevant. What the New Testament writers do is simply to 

"Werke," x., Pt. I. 1 , 70, 86, 89. Ibid., x., Pt. I.*, 14. 

The New Evangelism 65 

give full expression to what Moses and the prophets foresaw 
and taught about Christ. " The whole of the Old Testament 
has nothing in it but Christ/' te 

He nevertheless recognises a certain progression in the 
unfolding of the Christ revelation which, he thinks, reaches 
its fullness in Paul. From this point of view he rates Paul 
above the four evangelists. " I will venture to say that the 
Gospel is clearer and more fully expressed in Paul's Epistles 
than in the four Evangelists. The Evangelists have described 
Christ's life and word. . . . St Paul writes nothing of 
Christ's life, but he expresses clearly why He came and 
how we should make use of Him." ** It is therefore, above 
all, the Gospel according to Paul that he expounds with such 
power and conviction in these sermons, in opposition to 
the moralism which makes the Gospel a law and Christ a 
second Moses, and to the ecclesiasticism in religion which 
consists in the performance of prescribed " works," such as 
fasting, repeating prayers, keeping vigil, almsgiving, found- 
ing churches, saying Masses for souls in purgatory, etc., 
and which he equates with the Phariseeism of the New 
Testament. 45 " St Paul teaches in this Epistle (Titus ii. 
11-15) what Titus and every preacher shall preach to the 
people, viz., Christ and nothing else, in order that they may 
know what He is, why He came, and what He has accom- 
plished." 46 Specifically to preach Christ is to proclaim the 
fact of man's sin and the glad tidings of God's saving gift 
to sinful man, received in faith unto salvation. The first 
essential of the reception of this gift is the sense of sin, 
the distrust of self, and all its works. Be a sinner in 
order to become a Christian is the great paradox. The Gospel 
is a message for sinners, not for the self-righteous or those 
who seek salvation by these Pharisaic works. 

This is the kernel of Luther's own preaching to the 
people, of the new evangelism which, with a rare facility 
and mastery of simple exposition, he expounds to the 
common man in the common tongue, and which, as thus 
expounded, was fitted to appeal to the popular mind. It 

"Werke," x., Pt, I. 1 , 10; cf. 80, 81, 181. 

"/taar.,x., Pt. I. 1 , 47- 

Ibid., x., Pt. I. 1 , 17, 51- " -0**-. x -> Pt * I- 1 . J 9- 

66 Luther and the Reformation 

enables us to understand how the Lutheran Reformation, 
in its primary religious form at least, was emphatically an 
evangelistic movement, and why it made such a powerful 
impression on the people. This evangelism is simply a 
New Testament, or, more correctly, a Pauline theology as 
moulded in Luther's own thought and experience in the 
quest for a gracious God, and adapted to the common 
understanding. It is born of his own experience of sin, 
of the futility of "works," moral or ecclesiastical, for 
salvation, of the sole sufficiency of Christ's work appropriated 
by faith, the sole efficacy of God's grace in effecting the 
regeneration of the soul and begetting the new life of faith, 
from which works spring and which becomes the dynamic 
of a practical Christian ethic. This ethic is the fruit of the 
personal reception of Christ as Saviour, and manifests itself in 
devotion to Him as Master. Luther's opponents had and 
have much to say in criticism of the theological presupposi- 
tions of this Evangelism as tending to Antinomianism, etc. 
But Luther himself assuredly does not teach a cheap or 
formal faith, though many of his adherents might too 
easily in practical life overrate his principle of faith at the 
expense of his Christian ethic. It is not, he insists, a fruit- 
less faith that Christ brings to the receiving heart. The 
whole of the Christian life, he reiterates, is but a purification 
from sin. " For though faith redeems us forthwith from 
all the guilt of the law and makes us free, there remains 
the evil disposition in body and soul, which it is the work of 
faith to purify wholly/ 1 47 

In addition to instructing the people in the Gospel through 
these sermons, he determined to put into their hands the 
Gospel itself in the common tongue. He had evidently dis- 
cussed the project of a translation from the original language 
with Ms colleagues during his furtive visit to Wittenberg 
in the early part of December. They urged that he himself 
should undertake the task. 48 In his " Table Talk " he says 
that Melanchthon in particular had urged him to undertake 

" " Werke," x., Pt. I. 1 , 52. 

48 Enders, iii. 256. Novum Testamentum vernacula donaturus quam 
rem postulant nostri. 

The New Evangelism 67 

the work, 49 and his own sense of the superlative importance 
of providing an accurate version for popular use disposed 
him all the more readily to comply with the request. " I 
long that every town should have its own interpreter/' he 
wrote to Lang on the i8th December, after his return, 
" and that the tongue, hand, eyes, ears, and hearts of all 
should be occupied with this book alone." 50 Lang himself, 
to whom he had owed his knowledge of the elements of the 
Greek language, had already in the previous year published 
a translation of Matthew from the Greek text of Erasmus. 
While Luther encouraged him to continue what he had 
begun, 61 his own plan embraced the whole Bible, not portions 
of it. Such a translation in the common tongue was, indeed, 
already in existence and had appeared in various editions 
during the fifteenth century and early years of the sixteenth. 52 
But this translation had been made from the Vulgate and 
was thus but a translation of what was itself a faulty 
rendering of the original, and Luther had the advantage of 
being able to use for the New Testament the text of Erasmus 
(second edition, 1519). He also used a text sent him by 
Gerbel which was, however, practically that of Erasmus. 58 
On this text he set to work within a few days after his 
return. 54 He laboured with such intense assiduity that he 
had worked through the whole of the New Testament by 
the end of February I522. 55 

Truly a herculean performance and a striking testimony 
to his productive capacity which enabled him at the same 
time to translate and enlarge his Latin Postitte. He felt at 
times, as he wrote to Amsdorf, that he had undertaken a 
burden beyond his powers. 56 It was not merely a question 
of turning one literary form into another, but of rendering 
it in an idiom which the people could readily understand 
and which should, nevertheless, convey, in an apposite style, 

49 " Tischreden," iv. 709. 

10 Enders, iii. 256. 81 Ibid., iii. 256. 

" Moeller, " History of the Christian Church," ii. 543. 
fi Enders, iii. 241. " Ibid., iii. 258. 

65 Ibid,) iii. 325. 

* e Ibid., iii. 271. Interim Biblia transferam, quamquam onus sus- 
ceperim supra vires. 

68 Luther and the Reformation 

the sense of the original. The variety and divergence of 
dialects in German made the selection of a uniform medium 
peculiarly difficult. As a basis he chose the official language 
of the Saxon Chancellory, which had been adopted by the 
other German courts and the Senates of the Free Cities 
in their official communications. 57 His inborn gift of realistic 
expression stood him in good stead in moulding it into a 
fit instrument to express the meaning of the Greek original. 
"Translation/' he says in his "Table Talk/ 1 "is a special 
grace and gift of God/' 58 His German New Testament, from 
which Melanchthon expected to profit more than from all the 
commentaries of the learned, 59 is a striking monument of 
this gift. Even so, he spent many a weary hour in struggling 
to adapt his common medium to his purpose, and was fain 
to supplement it from his intimate knowledge of the popular 
Saxon, i.e., Low German speech. " Now I realise/ 1 he wrote 
to Amsdorf on the I3th January, " what it means to be an 
interpreter and why it has hitherto been attempted by no 
one who considered only his own reputation/' 60 He felt 
unequal to the task of translating the Old Testament 
without the assistance of his colleagues, and suggested 
that a secret lodging should be prepared for him at Witten- 
berg, where they might work together at the task of giving to 
Germany a worthy translation which all Christians could 
read with edification, and which would be a real improvement 
on the Vulgate. It is, he adds, a great and worthy work 
which demands the labour of all, in view of its public utility 
and its religious importance. 61 


The Elector had not only enjoined the Town Council 
of Wittenberg to punish the authors of the disturbances in 
the beginning of December. He had, in reply to the peti- 
tion of the University of the lath of the month, directed 

67 " Tischreden," iv. 57. " " Corp. Ref.," i. 563. 

* Ibid., iv. 571. < Enders, iii. 271. 

61 Ibid., iii. 271. An estimate of Luther's translation will be given 
later in connection with the complete translation of the Bible. 

The Radical Movement at Wittenberg 69 

that no innovations should be made in the service of the 
Mass without due deliberation and unanimous consent. 62 
Undeterred by these injunctions and emboldened by the 
growing demand of the citizens tt for a practical reformation, 
Carlstadt, in the course of a sermon which as archdeacon 
he delivered in All Saints on the 22nd, intimated that he 
would dispense the communion in both kinds on the ist 
January 1522. Anticipating the Elector's intervention, he 
carried out his purpose on Christmas Day. After explaining 
to his hearers that not confession and fasting, as hitherto, 
but a firm faith was alone necessary for participation in 
the sacred rite, 64 he read the introductory part of the service 
of the Mass, and then, omitting the sacrificial passages and 
the elevation of the host, invited the people to partake 
of the bread and wine in the words of the original institution, 
"Take, eat, etc." The daring thing in this celebration, 
which he performed without priestly garments, was not 
merely the giving of both kinds to the communicant, but 
the invitation to take from the altar with his own hands 
the elements which the priest alone had hitherto been 
permitted to handle. 65 

The sensation aroused by this daring contravention 
of use and wont was heightened by another unseemly 
demonstration on the previous night against the Mass in 
both the parish church and AH Saints, which was also 
reported in detail to the Elector by the Chapter. 66 Despite 
the official request to refrain from this innovation, 67 he 
repeated the innovation on New Year's Day, on the follow- 
ing Sunday, the 5th January, and on Epiphany Day, and 

fta " Corp. Ref.," i. 504 f. ; Nik. Miiller, 117 f , I5th and I9th Dec. 

* 3 The active movement led by Carlstadt and Zwilling had the 
support of a party among the citizens who had already, on the I7th Dec., 
presented to the Town Council a number of articles in favour of a radical 
reform of the religious and social life of the community. 

64 See the account of the sermon in Barge, i. 359-361. 

5 See the letter of the Chapter of All Saints to the Elector, 29th Dec., 
in which this enormity is emphasised. Barge, n. 558-559; cf. " Corp. 
Ref.," i. 512; Nik. Miiller, 131 f - ; Ulscenius to Capito, " Z.K.G.," v. 
330. See also the contemporary account in ibid., xxii. 125. 

66 See its Report in Barge, ii. 559; Nik. Miiller, 133-134. 

7 " Corp. Ref./' i. 612-613, 26th Dec.; Nik. Muller, 125-126. 

70 Luther and the Reformation 

the increasing number of communicants showed that, at 
Wittenberg at least, the people, if not the Government, 
were ready to welcome it. His example was followed by 
Zwilling who, after a series of violent sermons against the 
Mass in the parish church at Eilenburg, dispensed the 
communion in both kinds on New Year's Day in the castle 
chapel under the patronage of Hans von Taubenheim and 
other electoral officials. 68 Here again, unfortunately, the 
rowdy element, roused by the reckless eloquence of the 
fiery preacher, showed its indignation at the opposition of 
the local priest by smashing the windows of the parsonage. 
In Lochau and several other places, on the other hand, 
the priests took the lead in introducing the evangelical 
celebration. 69 

Other innovations rapidly followed. Many ceased to 
go to confession or to fast on Friday. On the igth January 
Carlstadt publicly espoused Anna von Mochau, the daughter 
of a poor nobleman resident in a neighbouring village, in the 
exercise of his Christian liberty and as an example to the 
priesthood, as he informed the Elector. 70 Justus Jonas, 
the Provost of All Saints, and others erelong followed suit. 71 
A number of the Franciscan monks left their monastery 
and took to shoemaking or other trades in order to earn 
their living and support their wives. 72 On the nth January, 
the day after the conclusion of the Chapter of the Order, 
the Augustinians, under Zwilling's leadership, startled the 
citizens by removing the altars from the monastery chapel, 
smashing the images, burning the pictures of the saints, and 
thereafter distributing to the people the communion in both 
kinds. 73 This dramatic proceeding started the demand for 
the clearance of the churches of these " emblems of idolatry," 
which was vigorously abetted by Carlstadt in the pulpit 

" See the contemporary accounts in " Z.K.G.," v. 327-329, and 
xxii. 125-126. 

'"Z.K.G.,"xxii. 122-123. 

70 Ibid., v. 331 (Ulscenius to Capito) ; cf. ibid^ xxii. 125; 
"Corp. Ref.," i. 538. 

71 Ibid., v. 332; xxii. 121. 
79 Ibid., xxii. 121. 

78 Ibid., v. 332 ; Nik. Muller, 169, 212. 

The Radical Movement at Wittenberg 71 

and in a philippic against images. 74 Zwilling also fanned the 
radical spirit by his fiery sermons on the subject and took 
occasion to rebuke Jonas and Amsdorf from the pulpit 
for their lack of zeal in the good cause. 76 Carlstadt, it 
appears, would, like Zwingli, have gone the length of 
eliminating instrumental music as well as images from the 
churches. 76 Amsdorf, Aurogallus, and Melanchthon were 
shocked by these iconoclastic excesses and thought of 
leaving Wittenberg. 77 

By this time the agitation had impressed the Town 
Council, which had so far striven to carry out the Elector's 
negative policy, with the necessity of averting the threatened 
anarchy by making concessions to the active reformers. To 
this end the new Burgomaster, Dr Beyer, who had acted 
as the Elector's representative in the earlier stage of the 
movement, entered into negotiations with the University. 
The result of the united deliberations of Council and pro- 
fessors, in which Melanchthon took a very active part, 78 
was an ordinance regulating the social as well as the religious 
life of the community on evangelical lines 79 (24th-25th 
January). Its aim is not only to regulate public worship 
in accordance with the Gospel, but to bring the spirit of the 
Gospel into communal life. It accordingly directs that the 
communion should be celebrated in accordance with the 
institution of Christ. Such specified parts of the traditional 
service as are contrary to this institution are to be omitted ; 

74 Von der Anbetung der Bilder. A summary of it is given, by 
Barge, i. 386 f. The dedication is dated 27th Jan. 

75 " Z.K.G ," v. 331. 7 Barge, i. 49<>49i. 

77 " Z.K.G.," v. 331 ; Nik. Mailer, 172-173 

78 Ibid., v 331. Habentur cotidie concilia hie a prseposito (Jonas, 
Provost of All Saints), Karolstadio, Philippo, rehqtioque clero et 
magistratu de mutandis plurium rebus. Philippus ardentissime rem 

79 Ain lobliche ordnung der Furstlichen Stat Wittenberg. Richter, 
" Die Evangelischen Kirchenordnungen des i6 ten Jahrhunderts," ii. 
484-485 (1871) ; " Corp. Ref.," i. 540-541. Beyer's summary, dated 25th 
Jan., which adds some details. Sehling, " Die Evangelischen Kirchen- 
ordnungen des i6 texi Jahrhunderts," i. 697-698 (1902). See also 
*' Z.K.G.," xxh. 122. Clemen gives the oldest version, which he 
discovered in the Zwickau Lib. in " TheoL Stud, und Kritiken," 1897, 
820-821 . 

72 Luther and the Reformation 

the others are only retained "for the sake of those weak 
in the faith." After sermon and consecration by the priest 
in the vernacular, the communicant may not must, as 
Carlstadt and Zwilling would have directed take in his 
hand the bread and the cup and partake thereof, thus 
evidently following the precedent set by Carlstadt in his 
celebration on Christmas Day. To avoid idolatry the altars, 
beyond the number of three, shall " in time " 80 be removed 
from the parish church. Ecclesiastical revenues and the 
vessels of the church are transferred to a common fund 
to be administered by the Town Council for the benefit of 
the poor certain benefices, which are only to fall to this 
fund on the death of the incumbent, excepted. Compensa- 
tion for those revenues immediately transferred is to be 
paid to the priests at the rate of six gulden annually. All 
begging, whether by monks, students, or others, is henceforth 
forbidden, and the monks in particular shall work for their 
living. Fraternities, i.e., social and religious associations, 
twenty-one in number, are abolished and their income is also 
made over to the common fund. Loans shall be made from 
this fund to poor craftsmen out of work, without any charge 
for interest. Orphans and poor children, especially young 
girls, shall be supported out of it, and in case it does not 
suffice for such objects, the citizens shall contribute. The 
sons of poor parents who show sufficient ability shall be 
assisted to remain at school in order to provide efficient 
preachers of the Gospel and properly equipped servants of the 
State. Those not of sufficient ability to serve the common- 
weal in this capacity shall be trained as craftsmen. To 
prevent extortion, citizens in need of loans shall receive such 
out of the common fund at 4 per cent., instead of 5 or 6 
charged by private lenders. Prostitution is forbidden. 
Women of ill-fame must many or leave the town, and 
keepers of brothels are liable to severe penalties. 81 

* So in Beyer's summary. 

81 According to Barge a special ordinance was drawn up regulating 
in detail the administration of the common fund. It is given by Barge, 
" 559-S6I. The question is whether this ordinance was not already 
passed in Nov. 1521 at the instigation of Luther (this has been inferred 
from a letter of Ulscenius to Capito, 3oth Nov. 1521, given by Hartfelder 

The Radical Movement at Wittenberg 73 

The ordinance is interesting and important as the first 
attempt of the civic authority to introduce an evangelical 
form of worship, to mould social and economic conditions, 
and exercise a strict supervision of public morality in 
conformity with the Gospel, and to secularise ecclesiastical 
revenues for the common benefit. It has been decried as 
visionary and puritanic as well as revolutionary by German 
historians who see in it merely the fanatic radicalism of 
Carlstadt and Zwilling. 82 Carlstadt and Zwilling doubtless 
contributed to its inception, and the regulation of public 
worship certainly reflects the hand of Carlstadt. 83 But its 
composition was the result of the co-operation of the Council 
and the University, of Beyer, Melanchthon, Jonas, and others, 
as well as Carlstadt, and it is a mistake to see in it the fruit 
merely of irresponsible fanaticism. On the contrary, grant- 
ing the necessity of inaugurating the change from the old 
order to the new, it is in the circumstances a moderate 
and enlightened solution of a very difficult problem. The 
secularisation of ecclesiastical revenues was, indeed, a daring 
procedure. But it was not entirely new and it proceeds on 
the principle of applying these revenues for the common 
benefit, including education as well as poor relief. It leaves 

in " Melanchthoniana Paedagogica," 120) who had already concerned 
himself with the subject in the " Address to the Nobility," or whether 
it was the result of the more general ordinance of 24th to 25th Jan. 1522. 
Barge maintains the latter view, " Theologische Studien und Kritiken," 
1913, 461 f., and " Historische Vierteljahrschrift," 1908, 193 f. Karl 
Miiller, " Historische Zeitschrift," vol. xcvi. 471 f., and " Luther und 
Karlstadt," 31 f. (1907), and Kohler, " Gott. Gelehrte Anzeige," 1912, 
524 f., maintain the former view. Winckelmann, " Hist. Viertel 
Jahrschrift," 1914, 205 f., also maintains this view, but thinks that 
the ordinance was not earned out and was, in any case, displaced by 
the larger one of Jan. 1522. 

M See, for instance, Kolde, " Luther," ii. 36 ; Hausrath, " Luther," 
i. 528; Kosthn-Kawerau, " Luther," i. 483. 

83 Barge would ascribe its provisions mainly to Carlstadt, without 
adequate justification, however, i. 385. Karl Muller (" Luther und 
Karlstadt," 56 f.) shows that the ordinance was, in part at least, an 
attempt to put in practice Luther's teaching in the sermon on Usury 
and the " Address to the Nobility." Melanchthon also took an active 
part in its composition in the hope apparently of regularising and 
moderating the movement. Ibid^ 62 f. 

74 Luther and the Reformation 

benefices in the possession of the incumbents during their 
lifetime and it allows compensation for the loss of income 
from confiscated sources. The inhibition of begging on 
economic grounds needs no apology, and the attempt to 
reduce excessive interest on loans is economically defensible. 
To put down public prostitution may be " puritanic." But 
Luther himself had strongly advocated this course in the 
" Address to the Nobility," and it is amply justified on the 
ground of the public welfare and morality as well as Christian 
duty. To denounce as Antichristian the Mass and image 
worship and yet refrain indefinitely from abolishing these 
abuses was neither logical nor advisable, if the Reformation 
was to be something more than a theological controversy 
within the schools. Moreover, whilst communion in both 
kinds is made obligatory, the taking of the bread and the 
cup in the hand of the communicant is, contrary to the 
demand of Carlstadt, left optional. The removal of the 
images is, according to the report of Beyer, not to be 
precipitately carried out. Whilst all this is revolutionary 
enough, the revolution is carried out in the interest of 
order and the commonweal, and not merely at the dictate 
of irresponsible fanatics. Carlstadt himself, in fact, though 
preaching and writing in favour of a radical policy, did not 
approve of popular violence, and had no desire to foment 
it, though he was not disposed to take his orders in matters 
of religion from the Government. 84 " For my person I assert 
that I have followed the Scriptures, and I appeal for con- 
firmation to the unsuspected evidence of my hearers. . . . 
Therefore I will remain strictly on the foundation of God's 
Word and shall not allow myself to be led astray by what 
others teach. Woe is me if I preach not the Gospel." 

Its authors had, however, not reckoned with the fact 
of the antagonism of the Elector who had from the outset, 

84 Letter of 4th Feb. to the Electoral Minister, von Einsiedel, who 
had written a sharp reproof of his preaching. " Corp. Ref.," i. 544-547 ; 
Barge, " Aktenstiicke Zur Wittenberger Bewegung," 13-15 (1912); 
N. Muller, " Die Wittenberger Bewegung," 180 f. (1911). K. Miiller 
(" Luther und Karlstadt," 68 f.) contests Carlstadt's disclaimer of 
inciting the people to violence and Barge's assertion to this eifect, 
i. 407- 

The Radical Movement at Wittenberg 75 

from political reasons, discouraged and opposed what he 
regarded as a precipitate departure from the existing order. 
In addition to his innate dislike of revolution, his fear of 
provoking the resentment of the Imperial Regency (Reichs- 
regiment) at Niirnberg predisposed him against such a 
far-reaching measure. He had warmly professed his readiness 
to further the cause of the Gospel and his profession seems 
to have been sincere. But the wary politician instinctively 
sought the path of least resistance in furthering the move- 
ment, and this path seemed to lie in the direction of retarding 
rather than hurrying change in the existing order. 
Individual initiative like that of Carlstadt and Zwilling 
against his declared will was both distasteful to his sense of 
order and likely to involve him in grave conflict with the 
central Government. And on the back of the news of 
Carlstadt's daring innovation in the service of the Mass 
on Christmas Day, came letters Irom Melanchthon, informing 
him of the arrival at Wittenberg of certain disciples of 
Thomas Mimzer Stiibner, Storch, and another whose name 
is not given who had been driven from Zwickau as dis- 
turbers of the peace Of these " prophets " Stiibner was a 
former student of Wittenberg University and a friend of 
Melanchthon ; Storch and his companion were weavers and 
illiterates. 85 Melanchthon was at first impressed by their 
knowledge of the Scriptures, their claim to direct 
inspiration by the Spirit, and their pretension to foretell the 
future by means of visions. He feared to condemn them 
lest he might extinguish the Spirit and was greatly per- 
turbed over their arguments against infant baptism, especi- 
ally as they appealed to Luther's teaching in support of their 
claims. 86 On reflection he expressed himself, in a report 
to the Elector on the ist January 1522, as more sceptical 
about their claims to inspiration, and suggested that the 
matter should be referred to the judgment of Luther. 87 

* B " Corp. Ref.," i. 513. Hue advolarunt tres viri, duo lanifices, 
literarum rudes, literatus tertius est. 

86 See his letters to the Elector and to Spalatin, 27th Dec. 1521. 
'* Corp. Ref.," i. 513-515. 

87 Ibid.i i. 533-534. Amsdorf also sent a report of a similar tenor. 
Ibid., i. 534-535 

76 Luther and the Reformation 

The matter-of-fact Elector had already been informed 
from Zwickau about the doings of these " prophets," 88 
and on the and January sent von Einsiedel and Spalatin 
to explain to Melanchthon and Amsdorf what he thought of 
them. In his view they were religious anarchists and 
fomenters of sedition, with whose vagaries it was not 
necessary to trouble Luther, though to his credit he was 
not disposed to use force against them. 89 Their presence 
at Wittenberg seems, however, to have contributed to deepen 
his suspicion and dislike of Carlstadt and Zwilling who, in 
his eyes, were hardly less obnoxious revolutionaries. In 
reality there is no evidence that either Carlstadt or Zwilling, 
unlike Melanchthon, was seriously impressed by their 
claims to supernatural enlightenment. 90 Their influence on 
the Wittenberg movement seems to have been practically 
negligible, and the passing excitement they created subsided 
with their departure shortly after. Certain it is that there 
is no trace of even a spasmodic influence on the practical 
provisions of the ordinance. 

What moved the Elector to challenge once more the 
policy of the innovators was not only the dislike of revolu- 
tion, but the knowledge that the Imperial Regency had 
resolved to suppress the movement. At the instigation of 
Duke George of Saxony it emphatically condemned the 
innovations in the worship and the usages of the Church 
(particularly the revolt against the celibacy of the clergy 
and the obligation of monastic vows) as detrimental to 
religion and ecclesiastical order, and requested the princes 
to prohibit them within their territories under threat of 
severe punishment, and to instruct the people by means of 
skilful preachers to observe the old order until a Reichstag 
or a Council should authoritatively determine the question. 
In particular, the authors or adherents of these innovations 
are to be visited with exemplary punishment if they persist 

88 Letter of Hausmann to the Elector from Zwickau, i8th Dec 1521 
" Z.K.G.," v. 323-325. 

" Corp. Ref., i. 535-538. 

90 See Barge, i, 402-405. Against the conventional view of a large 
number of German historians. 

The Radical Movement at Wittenberg 77 

in maintaining them. 91 In this emergency there was only 
one of two alternatives open to the Elector either to risk 
an open conflict with the central Government, or to take 
energetic measures against the innovators at Wittenberg 
and elsewhere. Old and ailing, he seems to have been no 
longer equal to the strain of the diplomatic fencing which 
he had practised so successfully in defence of Luther against 
the Pope and the Emperor. He was besides alienated by 
the independent initiative of Carlstadt and Zwilling. He 
therefore chose the latter alternative in spite of the fact that 
his representative at Niirnberg, von Planitz, had strenuously 
opposed the proposals of Duke George. As a preliminary, 
Einsiedel attempted to silence the radical preachers at 
Wittenberg. 92 Carlstadt, as we have seen, answered with 
a spirited refusal, and Melanchthon, who was requested to 
abet this demand, replied that he was powerless to stem the 
tide of Reformation and hinted that it was time to show 
a more active sympathy with the movement. 93 On the back 
of these letters came the tidings that the people, anticipating 
the promised action of the Town Council, had burst into 
the parish church, torn down the images and pictures, and 
smashed and burned them. 94 Though the Council arrested and 
punished a number of the rioters, the incident brought upon 
the innovators a sharp condemnation of the revolutionary 
measures which had given occasion to such disorder. 95 In 
this communication the Elector, whilst not absolutely 
inhibiting the ordinance, enlarged on the danger of truckling 

91 Barge, " Aktenstiicke," 3-6; Walch, xv. 4616-4619. For the 
discussion at Numberg on this mandate see " Reichstagsakten," iii. 

""Corp. Ref.," i. 543-544; Barge, "Aktenstiicke," 11-13. 
Letters to Melanchthon to bring Zwilling to desist from his aggressive 
sermons, and direct to Carlstadt to refrain from such preaching, 3rd Feb. 
Einsiedel seems to have acted on his own initiative in this matter. 
Barge, " Hist.Vierteljahrschrift " (i9H) 7-8. 

"Barge, "Aktenstiicke," 16-17; "Corp. Ref.," i. 544-546. Ich 
kann aber das Wasser nicht halten, ware von nothen dass man zu solichen 
Sachen die der Seelen Heil betreffen, ernstlicher thate. 

" " Corp. Ref.,'* i. 550, 553, probable date 5th or 6th Feb. 

"/&/., i. 549-552; Barge, " Aktenstucke," 25-30; Nik. Muller, 
190 f., I3th Feb. 

78 Luther and the Reformation 

to revolution at the instigation of the radical preachers, 
repeated his former caveat against precipitate action, and 
demanded to be informed why they had acted in this matter 
against his declared will. In reply, the University Commis- 
sion accepted responsibility for the ordinance drawn up in 
co-operation with the Town Council in the interest of the 
public welfare, and while expressing disapproval of the 
violent removal of the images, laid the blame on the obstruc- 
tive tactics of the opponents of the Reformation 96 (the 
Romanist section of the Chapter of All Saints). In a 
supplementary statement, however, which was evidently 
inspired by the pliant Melanchthon, the Commission resiles 
to a considerable extent from this spirited vindication of its 
action, and makes concessions in a conservative direction in 
regard to the communion service, 97 In the interview between 
its members and Einsiedel at Eilenburg on the I3th February, 
Carlstadt went the length of promising to cease preaching, 
and the more moderate Amsdorf undertook to exhort the 
people from the pulpit of the parish church to observe 
moderation, whilst Zwilling contributed to ease the situation 
by retiring in the meantime from Wittenberg. 98 

With this compromise the Elector was by no means 
satisfied, and on the lyth February sent from Lochau an 
emphatic condemnation of the religious innovations and their 
authors, and a decisive expression of his will that the old 
order should be restored, pending a general and authoritative 
decision on the question. 99 He based his demand on the 
imperial mandate of the aoth January and the intimation of 
the Bishop of Meissen of his determination to execute it in 
his diocese, which included part of the electoral territory. 100 

" Corp. Ref.," i. 552-553 J Barge, " Aktenstiicke," 30-32 ; Nik. 
Muller, 194 f. The editor of the " Corp. Ref." wrongly ascribes the 
first part of this document to the Town Council. 

""Corp. Ref.," i. 554-555. Barge, " Aktenstucke," 33-34; Nik. 
Muller, 201. 

" Corp. Ref.," i. 556-558 ; Barge, " Aktenstucke," 41 f. 

"Corp. Ref./' i. 55^-559 ; Barge, "Aktenstucke," 44-46; Nik. 
Muller, 206-208. 

100 The bishop's intimation was dispatched to the Elector on the 7th 
Feb. It is given by Barge, " Aktenstucke," 19-21, and, together with 
the mandate, explains his decision to prohibit outright the innovations 

The Radical Movement at Wittenberg 79 

It might be the prudent course to adopt. But this kind of 
tactic would hardly have produced the Reformation, especially 
as Melanchthon, Justus Jonas, and Amsdorf in the face of 
this impasse were at the end of their resources and also of 
their courage. They were not made of the stuff of resolute 
leadership, and Melanchthon, in particular, in the absence 
of Luther's backing, had recently shown a lack of firmness 
of resolution and purpose. He had, for instance, un- 
doubtedly been impressed by Stiibner's arguments on behalf 
of a subjective revelation, and then at the Elector's nod had 
agreed to discard the prophets. He had also at Einsiedel's 
request undertaken to reprimand Zwilling, 1 though he 
had some days before written a eulogy of him to his friend 
Hector Pomer at Niirnberg. 2 He had all along felt the 
lack of Luther's presence and pined for his return. Whilst 
Carlstadt would have stood by the ordinance, his only 
expedient was to shift the responsibility for a decision of the 
question on to Luther's shoulders. Hence the message sent 
on the 20th February to the Wartburg urging his return to 

at Wittenberg. The passage in which the Elector gives the reason for 
his decision is lacking in the version of his missive to Einsiedel in the 
" Corp. Ref.," i. 558-559. The full text is given by Barge, " Akten- 
stiicke," 44-46, and Nik. Muller, "Die Wittenberger Bewegung," 
206-208. K. Muller (" Luther und Karlstadt," 76 f.) contests the 
view that Frederick acted from apprehension of the central Government, 
and ascribes his action to his conservative instinct and his conventional 
method of evading responsibility in such matters. It does appear, how- 
ever, from the concluding passage of his missive that the Elector was 
really anxious on the score of the intervention of the central Government. 
" Corp. Ref.," i. 546. a Ibid., i. 542. 



LUTHER had been following with a lively interest the progress 
of the movement at Wittenberg since his return to the 
Wartburg about the middle of December. He rejoiced at 
the news of Carlstadt's marriage, and in a letter to Amsdorf 
on the isth January had intimated his intention of bringing 
him a present on his return after Easter. 1 He must have 
known of the celebration of the communion in both kinds 
on Christmas Day when he wrote in this friendly tone 
concerning him, and though he mentions his intention to 
return in a letter to Melanchthon of the same date, the 
reason adduced is not the innovations in worship, not even 
the advent of the prophets, but the furthering of his transla- 
tion of the New Testament. 2 Some days later (i7th January) 
he refers, indeed, in a letter to Spalatin to the innovations 
at Eilenburg and Wittenberg as a reason for putting an 
end to his enforced exile, and says that the matter demands 
his return either to Wittenberg or some other place. But 
he does not explicitly condemn them, and is concerned rather 
to disarm the Elector's opposition to his purpose. 8 He does 
not take the prophets very seriously, 4 and in the letters to 
Amsdorf and Melanchthon of the I3th January advises them 
to try the spirits. He expresses scepticism about their 
professed revelations, and reminds the anxious Melanchthon 
of the advice of Gamaliel. God sends no one without a 
call through human agency, or without accompanying signs. 
The prophets of old received and proved their vocation in 

1 Enders, iii. 270-271. 8 Ibid., iiL 286. 

* Ibid., iii. 277, * Ibid., iii. 286. Neque enim me movent. 


Luther and the Elector 81 

this manner. Subjective revelations by means of dreams 
and visions and direct inspiration are not to be credited 
without substantial attestation of this kind, even if these 
prophets claim to have been caught up to the third heaven. 
Nor is he impressed by their insistence on adult baptism 
on the ground that infants cannot exercise personal faith. 
God accepts the faith of the parents on their behalf (fides 
aliena) and is able to inspire faith even in the infant mind. 
More convincing is the argument that Christ received the little 
children, and we should follow His example. Moreover, the 
presumption is that " what is not against Scripture is for 
the Scripture and the Scripture for it." 5 Satan is certainly 
at the bottom of the movement. 6 Whilst he thus rejects 
their pretensions and reasonings, he would not use force 
against them. It would ill become the followers of the 
Gospel to resort to persecution, and he charges Spalatin to 
see that the Elector does not resort to it. 7 

During the next five weeks there is a blank in his cor- 
respondence, and at the end of this interval there is a 
marked change in his tone in reference to the Wittenberg 
movement. He has evidently received the letter of his 
colleagues urging his return and revealing their utter im- 
potence to cope with the situation in the face of the Elector's 
drastic intervention. He has evidently been informed of 
the danger to his cause that threatens from Niirnberg and 
of the trepidation that reigns in the electoral court, as well 
as the prevailing helplessness and confusion at Wittenberg. 
His first impulse 8 was to dash off a note to the Elector in 
his bluffest style without the usual deferential preamble. 
With an ironic reference to the Elector's zeal as a collector 
of relics, he tells him that God has sent him a whole cross 
with nails, spears, and scourge to boot. He sardonically 
wishes him good luck with this new acquisition to his 

6 Enders, iii. 276. Quod ergo non est contra Scripturam pro Scriptura 
est et Scriptura pro eo. 

6 Ibid., iii. 271-277. 

7 Ibid., iii. 286. 

8 The so-called letter to the Wittenbergers towards the end of Feb., 
noted by Enders, is really the sketch of a sermon which he proposed 
to deliver and which he made after his return. " Werke," x. 74 f. 

82 Luther and the Reformation 

collection and begs him not to let himself be frightened 
thereat, but to act prudently and wisely rather than in 
accordance with mere diplomatic reason and the outward 
appearance of things (a hit at the Elector's predilection for 
politic measures). Whoever will have the Word of God 
must be prepared to find not only Annas and Caiaphas 
raging, but Judas among the Apostles and Satan among 
the children of God. Judas evidently stands for Carlstadt 
and his associates, whose reforms are inspired by Satan. 
High time, therefore, for him to be at Wittenberg in order 
to frustrate these satanic wiles. He knows Satan's tricks 
too well to be afraid of liim. " God willing I will straight- 
way be there." fi 

The letter, he tells us, was written in haste, and the 
judgment strikes the reader as equally hasty. It was 
evidently based on one-sided information about the reform 
movement and coloured by his obsession of the devil's impish 
doings, which the solitude of the Wartburg had intensified. 
These reforms were the logical outcome of his own principles 
though he had himself refrained from drawing the inevitable 
practical conclusion and had warned others against doing 
so. At the same time, he had frequently in his works incited 
to revolt against the papal ecclesiastical system and had 
evidently discovered nothing in the movement at Wittenberg 
up to the middle of January to suggest the agency of Satan. 
Nor had he taken the ebullition of popular feeling against 
the old order there seriously. Even the ordinance of the 
24th January had been initiated by the public authority 
in accordance with his declared principle, and was therefore 
not liable to the objection of being the fruit of irresponsible 
revolutionary violence. Its provisions relative to the 
practical reform of religious and social life (the simplification 
of the Mass, usury, prostitution, poor relief, education) 
were in keeping with his teaching. 

What seems to have suggested the agency of Satan in his 
reforming capacity was the active antagonism of the Elector, 
under the influence of the Niirnberg mandate of 20th 
January, and the failure of his Wittenberg colleagues to 

9 " Werke," 53, 103-104 (Erlang. ed.). 

Luther and the Elector 83 

maintain the ordinance in the face of this antagonism. 
Their lack of resource and nerve had certainly produced a 
situation that called for his intervention. But while the 
crisis might appear serious enough, it hardly justified him 
in so hastily prejudging their work as satanic, or denouncing 
Carlstadt as the Judas of the Reformation. Carlstadt had 
only acted on the principle of his own letter to Spalatin in 
the middle of December, in which he put the pointed question 
whether they were to go on perpetually disputing on the 
Word of God and always abstaining from putting it in 

The Elector was, however, very nervous on the score 
of his declared determination to intervene personally. In 
his reply^ which took the form of an instruction to John 
Oswald, his bailiff at Eisenach, he explained the situation 
at Wittenberg from his point of view the prevailing dis- 
union and anarchy which the innovations had produced, 
the diminution of the number of students, the intervention 
of the Council of Regency and of the Bishop of Meissen as 
its mandatory. Whilst asking Luther to advise him in 
this emergency, he adduces the difficulties and dangers to 
which his resolution to return in the face of the papal and 
imperial ban will expose both himself and him. If, how- 
ever, he could be sure that it was the will of God that he 
should take upon him this cross, he is prepared to do so. 
Only things are in such a state of chaos at Wittenberg 
that he is unable to see God's hand in these ongoings or 
run the risk of grave complications for such a cause. Perhaps 
Luther would do better to exercise patience for a time 
and submit the case in writing to the forthcoming Diet. 10 
The missive is very characteristic of the wary politician who 
would fain prompt Luther to use his influence to put down 
the radical movement at Wittenberg and thus obviate the 
threatened intervention of the central Government and its 
mandatory, the Bishop of Meissen, whilst transferring to him 
the responsibility for the decision whether to return or not. 11 

10 Enders, iii. 292-295. 

11 Kawerau in the " Deutsche Literaturzeitung," xiv. 1584 f. (1893), 
interprets the Elector's letter as a camouflaged invitation to Luther to 
return and deal with the situation. He incorporated this interpretation, 

84 Luther and the Reformation 

When this missive reached Luther, he had already made 
his preparations for his departure on the following day. 
It did not alter his determination to start on the morrow, 
and he had reached Borna on the way to Wittenberg before 
he found time to answer it on the 5th March. The answer is 
one of the most characteristic revelations of his dynamic 
personality, and brings out in striking relief the contrast 
between the calculating but worried politician and the 
fearless and resolute reformer, who believes himself to be 
commissioned and directed by God and moulds his course 
in accordance with this conviction and no other. He starts 
in an apologetic tone, for the Elector had evidently felt 
the sting of his ironic reference to his mania for relic collect- 
ing and his predilection for diplomatic calculation. He 
had not intended to depreciate his distinguished gifts as a 
ruler, whom he esteemed above all other princes, but only 
to comfort him in the midst of the trouble which the ill- 
conceived measures of the misguided innovators had caused 
him " to the great dishonour of the Gospel." All the ill 
done him hitherto by his enemies is as nothing compared 
to this distortion of the Gospel, which cannot be excused 
before God or the world and for which he will be held 
responsible. Clearly the hand of the devil is in this game. 
But the Elector need not worry himself about him or his 
cause. He has received the Gospel, not from man but 
from heaven alone through the Lord Jesus Christ. He 
had offered to appear at the bar of the Diet of Worms not 
because he had any doubt about the truth, but only that 
by his humility he might draw others to it. Similarly he 
had allowed himself for reasons of expediency to be buried 
in the Wartburg. The devil knows only too well that he 

which Berger adopts ("Luther," i. 431), in his edition of Moeller's 
" History of the Christian Church," iii. 37 (Eng. trans.), but subse- 
quently dropped it in " Luther's Ruckkehr," 44. Bezold, on the other 
hand, contests this interpretation and concludes that the letter was rather 
meant to discourage Luther's return and was not a mere roundabout 
way of prompting him to do so, " Z.K.G.," xx. 202 f. The letter seems 
to me to warrant the interpretation I have given in the text. It really 
leaves to Luther the decision whether he shall return or not and does 
not forbid his return. 

Luther and the Elector 85 

had not been actuated by fear in adopting this expedient. 
Had he not defied him when he determined to enter Worms 
even if there were as many devils within it as tiles on the 
roofs ? And now that he is trying on his old game through 
Duke George, shall he lose confidence in the Father of 
Mercies who has made us, through the Gospel, lords over the 
devil and death and over Duke George's fury as well ? 
Verily not. For if necessity should call him to go to 
Leipzig instead of Wittenberg, he would ride into it even if 
it rained for nine days Duke Georges, and every one of 
them were more furious than this one. He is going to 
Wittenberg under a higher protection than that of the 
Elector. He does not desire his protection, and if he 
depended on such protection he would not go at all. In 
this matter the secular power can neither counsel nor help. 
God alone can provide without all human care and co- 
operation. He who believes most will, therefore, have the 
most protection. Since he observes that the Elector is 
still all too weak in faith, he can by no means regard him 
as the man to protect or save him. The Elector esteems 
that he has done too little in this matter. Luther respect- 
fully assures him that he has done too much and should do 
nothing at all. For God will have this affair left in His own 
hands and in no one else's. If the Elector has not this 
faith, Luther has it and must leave him to worry in his 
unbelief. And since he refuses to follow his direction, 
he need have no responsibility for what happens to him. 
Let him obey the imperial authority as is his duty. Resist- 
ance to it is resistance to God, who has established it. He 
trusts, however, that the imperial Government will act 
with reason and recognise the divine hand in this cause. 
But if not, and it seeks to seize him, let the Elector permit it 
freely to do so. Christ has not taught Luther to be a 
Christian at another's expense. If, however, it is so bereft 
of reason as to command the Elector to arrest him, he will 
then tell him what his duty is. Happily it is a different 
man from Duke George with whom he has to do, though, 
through his lack of faith, he has not yet seen the glory of 
God. 12 

13 " Werke," 53, 104-109 (Erlang. ed.). 

86 Luther and the Reformation 

The letter reveals Luther in his true character as the 
prophet to whom God is everything, man, even an Elector, 
is nothing, when it boots to vindicate what he conceives 
to be God's will. The Elector was, however, by no means 
minded to leave the political aspect of the matter out of 
account. These heroics could hardly be adduced in a 
diplomatic explanation to the Imperial Regency of the 
reappearance on the scene of the redoubtable outlaw, for 
which the Elector would be asked to account. Luther 
must, therefore, be persuaded to drop his prophet's mantle 
for the nonce and give a version of his action which the 
Elector could use for diplomatic purposes. In a missive 
to Schurf he accordingly requested that he should furnish 
him with such a declaration of the reason of his return, 
without his permission, as he could show to his fellow-princes 
(Duke George and the members of the Regency at Niirnberg) 
in his own exoneration, 13 and as far as possible that of Luther 
himself. Luther had perforce, therefore, to exchange the 
role of the prophet for that of the diplomatist, and in a 
letter to the Elector, written on the yth March as of his 
own accord, acknowledges that he had returned without 
his " will and permission." In so doing he had not acted 
in contempt of the authority of the Emperor or any other, 
for although human authority is not to be obeyed when it 
ordains anything against God, it is as a rule to be honoured 
and not despised. Though Christ did not justify Pilate's 
judgment, He did not gainsay it. He had returned for 
three reasons : He had received a call from the Church at 
Wittenberg and was bound in conscience to respond to it. 
Satan had made an inroad into his fold and the situation, 
which could not be remedied by letter, demanded his personal 
intervention. Moreover, Germany was standing on the 
brink of a great uprising. The people are apprehending the 
Gospel in a fleshly sense and the tendency is all the more 
dangerous, inasmuch as the powers that be, instead of 
striving to mitigate this danger, are intensifying it by their 
efforts to extinguish the Gospel. It was, therefore, im- 
perative that he should seek, in co-operation with his friends, 

18 Enders, iii. 297-298. Instruction to Schurf, 7th March. 

Luther and the Elector 87 

to counteract their insensate policy of force. " For your 
Electoral Grace should know and be assured of this, that it is 
altogether decreed otherwise in heaven than at Niirnberg, 
and those who unhappily presume that they have swallowed 
the Gospel will yet discover that they have not even learned 
to say the ' Benedicite.' " The Elector is lord only over 
material things and the body. Christ is the lord of the 
soul, and in this sphere he must needs do His will who has 
sent him and raised him up for this purpose. He hopes that 
Christ will prevail over his enemies and will protect him. 
But if not, His will be done. The Elector need have no 
fear of incurring any danger or detriment on his account. 14 
He evidently felt that this essay in diplomacy was hardly 
up to the Elector's standard, and in a postscript he expresses 
his readiness to alter the terms of it in accordance with 
any changes the Elector may suggest, though he intimates 
that this is the last time that he will pay such a tribute to 
political expediency. The suggested amendments 15 proved to 
be so material that in the final version of the letter, bearing 
date I2th March, the prophet almost disappears behind the 
plausible diplomatist. The Elector's decided opposition to 
his return is more categorically asserted, and he now refers 
to the Emperor as " his most gracious lord " instead of the 
formal " imperial majesty." The rather contemptuous refer- 
ence to the Imperial Regency is suppressed, the Elector's 
forgiveness is asked for his disobedience to his express 
will, and an undertaking is given to refrain with God's help 
from all unseemly and insulting accusations. 16 The missive 
is meekness itself compared with the high-spirited effusion 
of the 5th March. It was wrung from him, as he wrote to 
Spalatin, by consideration of the Elector's infirmity, and the 
reference to the Emperor as his most gracious lord was very 
much against the grain, since all the world knew that he was 
his direst enemy and would only ridicule this manifest 
pretence. The only salve for his conscience was that he was 
merely using the conventional language of courtly address, 

14 " Werke," 53, 109-112 (Erlang. ed.). 

15 See the Elector's letter to Schurf, Enders, iii. 303-304- 
18 " Werke, 1 ' 52, 114-118 (Erlang. ed.). 

88 Luther and the Reformation 

But he has had enough of this sort of subterfuge (fucus), and 
no more of this make-believe is to be expected from him. 17 

Neither the Elector nor Luther comes heroically out of 
this diplomatic business. The situation was undoubtedly 
a difficult one for the Elector who, as patron of the Reforma- 
tion, had to face the possibility of forfeiting title and territory 
for the sake of the Gospel, and had to consider every step 
in the light of this possibility. Even so, the hesitation to 
take risks in such a cause, which at heart he seems really 
to have embraced, displays him too much in the light of 
the victim of an excessive and rather helpless prudence. 
As for Luther, the spirit of Worms, which had blazed up 
in the letter of 5th March, has almost evaporated in the 
effusion of a week later. And yet it is the self-same Luther 
that had once more set out on a hazardous journey to do the 
will of God in the face of the opposition of man and 
devil, regardless of the difficulties and dangers of the enter- 
prise. It is assuredly not a case of loss of nerve in the 
face of the opposition, or mere truckling to political expedi- 
ency at the expense of the cause of the Gospel. Whilst 
going so far as to invite the ridicule of public opinion in his 
desire to safeguard the timorous Elector, he has not the 
slightest intention of belying his convictions or betraying 
this cause by surrendering either at the behest of the Imperial 
Regency. Even in the letter of I2th March he makes it 
clear enough that he means to stand fast, without the protec- 
tion of any human patron, for what he deems the cause of 
God against its enemies at Niirnberg or elsewhere. The 
diplomatic attempt to save the Elector is not an attempt to 
save himself. He is not afraid to stand alone for the Gospel 
even if he must equivocate somewhat for the Elector's sake. 
The glimpse we get of him at Erfurt and Jena during the 
journey in his now familiar disguise as Knight George reveals 
no trace of trepidation or irresolution. In the inn at Erfurt, 
according to Ratzeberger, he listens to the tirade across the 
table of an ignorant parson against the great heretic, and 
calmly begs him to tell him what this execrable Luther has 
taught. The parson, more exercised in ranting than in 

17 Enders, iii. 305-306, 

Luther and the Elector 89 

learning, being unable to specify one of the 100 heresies 
which, he says, are to be found in Luther's writings, the 
knight remarks that, though not a scholar, he had learned 
to read and write and, having dipped into some of these 
writings, had found that one of these 100 errors consisted 
in his appeal to Scripture and especially to Paul. In the 
inn at Jena two bedraggled students from Switzerland on 
their way to Wittenberg seek shelter from the pouring rain 
and a night's lodging. The friendly knight reading a book 
at one of the tables offers them a drink and enters into 
conversation with them. Recognising by their accent their 
Swiss origin, he tells them that they will find at Wittenberg 
fellow-countrymen in the jurist Schurf and his brother, 
the professor of medicine. He talks to them about 
Melanchthon and the other Wittenberg professors, and asks 
news of Erasmus at Basle, where they have studied. One 
of them picks up the book, and finding that it is a Hebrew 
Psalter, avers that he would willingly give one of his fingers 
to be able to read it. The knight replies that he shares their 
desire and exercises himself daily in this language. The 
innkeeper confides to one of the students, Kessler by name, 
that the knight is none other than Luther himself. Kessler 
concludes that he is pulling his leg and his companion is 
of opinion that he has misunderstood the word Luther for 
Hutten, to whom the appearance of the strange knight 
would better apply. The knight leaves them under this 
illusion. Anon two merchants enter the inn, one of them 
carrying a book, which turns out to be Dr Luther's 
Pastille. Whereupon the knight remarks that he also 
will soon get a copy. The conversation at the meal, to 
which the knight invites the two students at his own charge, 
shifts to the assembled princes at Niimberg, who, instead 
of discussing the religious condition of Germany, waste their 
time in tournaments and other diversions. " And these 
are our Christian princes," concluded the knight, adding 
that he hoped the rising generation would improve upon 
their elders as the fruit of the new evangelical teaching. 
Luther, remarked one of the merchants, must be either an 
angel from heaven or the devil from hell. In any case, 
he would willingly give his last ten gulden for the privilege 

90 Luther and the Reformation 

of making his confession to him. At the close of the meal 
the students thank him for his generosity and gave him to 
understand that he is Hutten. The innkeeper boldly opines 
that he is Luther " The students/' jocularly returned the 
stranger, " hold that I am Hutten, you that I am Luther. 
Before long I shall be taken for Marculf " (a well-known 
creation of the popular humour). The knight ended the 
colloquy by asking the students to clink glasses with him 
in a bumper of wine. Rising from the table he shook 
hands with them and asked them to carry his personal greet- 
ing to Dr Schurf at Wittenberg. " Say only/' was the reply 
to the question whom they should say had sent his greeting, 
" he who shall come sends his greeting. He will soon 
understand what these words mean/' 18 


On the 6th March he rode into Wittenberg in the midst 
of a cavalcade of horsemen who had joined him near the 
town, 19 and dismounted unrecognised in the dwelling of Justus 
Jonas. On the following Sunday, the 8th, he appeared in 
the pulpit of the parish church to preach the first of a 
consecutive series of eight sermons adapted to the situation, 
besides a number of daily Lenten sermons on the Ten 

These sermons show Luther at his best as a preacher. 
They are models of persuasive reasoning and reveal the 
striving to calm excitement and restore harmony. He 
addresses his hearers as his " dear friends " and eschews 
recrimination, though he speaks his mind freely and mingles 
on occasion reproof with exhortation. One of his hearers, 
the student Burerius, writes enthusiastically of his kindly 
and cheerful manner, his rich and sonorous voice, his 
melting eloquence. If one hears him once, one wants to 
hear him again and again, so lasting is the impression he 
makes on the minds of his hearers, so powerful the appeal 
of his personal piety in whatever he speaks, teaches, or 

" Kessler's " Sabbata," 76 f. 

19 " Z.K.G.," v. 332. Letter of Burerius to Beatus Rhenaaus. 

Sermons in Behalf of Moderation 91 

does, although his enemies represent him so differently. 20 
Schurf in his account to the Elector is equally appreciative. 21 
Faith, he explains in the first of these sermons, is the 
essential for salvation from sin, and this essential of the 
Gospel has been effectively preached in his absence. But 
faith must be paired with love, and here his hearers have 
been led astray. The kingdom of God consists not in words, 
but in deeds. Love teaches patience and self-denial for the 
sake of others. We may not do what we have a right to 
do without considering whether it is serviceable to our 
brother. Paul says, " All things are lawful for me, but 
not all things are expedient." Some are strong in faith, 
others weak, and the strong must have respect to the weak 
in the matter of these innovations. The cause in itself is 
good, but it has been more hastily promoted than he would 
have sanctioned had he been present. He claims the right 
to a say in this matter, since he was the first to begin the 
work of God among them, and he complains that he has not 
been consulted in regard to these changes. " I have not 
been so far away that you could not have informed me 
beforehand by letter/' They have overlooked the fact that 
the responsibility for all that has occurred will be saddled 
on him. In this respect they have not acted in the right 
spirit, though they have shown a great knowledge of the 
Scriptures. The Mass in the sense of an offering is un- 
doubtedly an abuse which ought to be abolished. Private 
Masses should also cease. But this is to be done by preach- 
ing and working, not by force, for no one can change the 
heart or mind of another except God alone. Force can only 
make hypocrites or mechanical Christians. Persuasion is 
the only effective instrument in religion and the individual 
must be left to judge for himself. 22 Preach the Word and 
leave the result to God, is Luther's remedy. By continuing 
to preach, the Word wiU ultimately triumph. With those 
who adopt other methods he will not co-operate. " Summa 
Summarum I will preach the Word, will declare it, will 
write it. But I will never force or press anyone with 

a ' " Z.K.G.," v. 333. 

21 Enders, in. 299-302. 

" Sermon I., " Werke," x., Pt III., i f. 

92 Luther and the Reformation 

violence > for faith can only be willingly, unconstrainedly 
nourished. Take an example from me. I opposed indul- 
gences and all the practices of the papists. But not with 
force. I have urged God's Word alone, preached and 
written and done nothing else, and the Word has accomp- 
lished so much, whilst I slept or drank a glass of Wittenberg 
beer with Philip and Amsdorf, that the Papacy has been 
rendered more impotent than any prince or emperor has ever 
succeeded in making it. I have done nothing ; the Word 
everything. If I had so wished I might have deluged 
Germany with blood; yea, I might have started such a 
game at Worms that the Emperor himself would not have 
been secure. I have only let the Word act. Had I done 
otherwise, I would only have done the devil's work for him. 
Let them follow the example of Paul who, in his conflict 
over the Mosaic law, was content with vindicating his own 
freedom, and let them not take an example from the papists 
who have mocked and oppressed us with thousands of 
laws/' 23 

The abolition of the Mass is certainly defensible on 
scriptural grounds. But it has not been done in an orderly 
manner, or without offence to others. Moreover, it has 
been done without the consent of the Government (die 
Obersten, die Obirkeit, i.e., the Elector) and cannot, therefore, 
be of God. As far as the opposition of the papists is con- 
cerned, he would not have hesitated. But it is incumbent 
on them to forbear such changes for the sake of the weak 
brethren and to distinguish between what is commanded and 
what is left free in the Scriptures. Some things we may do 
or not as long as faith is not endangered. But our liberty 
in these things must always be conditioned by our obligation 
to our neighbour. 24 

Among the things that are left to the individual con- 
science axe celibacy, the monastic life, abstinence from meat 
on Fridays, the presence of images and pictures in churches, 
communion in both kinds, confession. To make hard and 
fast rules in regard to such matters, with which he proceeds 
to deal in detail in the following sermons, is against God's 

* 3 Sermon II. a * Ibid., HI. 

Sermons in Behalf of Moderation 93 

ordinance. Personally, he would wish all monks and nuns 
to leave their monasteries and marry, and thus make an end 
of monkery. But the decision must rest with the individual, 
who must act with a clear conscience before God and not 
merely follow the example of others. He would prefer to 
have no images and pictures in the churches. But he denies 
that it is forbidden to make images in the Old Testament. 
It is only forbidden to worship them. The patriarchs had 
their altars. Moses himself fashioned a brazen serpent, 
and even in the Holy of Holies there were two cherubim. 
If the people were really to worship these pictures and 
images they ought undoubtedly to be destroyed. But he 
questions this assumption, and thinks that it is sufficient 
in this case also to preach against this practice, which he 
is fain to confess is a serious abuse, as Paul did at Athens, 
without violently laying hands on these emblems of idolatry. 
Though wine and women, gold and silver bring many to 
ruin, they are not, therefore, to be destroyed. Images are 
neither good nor bad in themselves, and as long as it is 
possible to make a good use of them they may remain as 
far as he is concerned. Fasting should not be obligatory. 
Every one should be free to eat flesh instead of fish on Fridays, 
if his health requires it, or if he deems it necessary to protest 
against papal tyranny and vindicate his freedom. On the 
other hand, it is incumbent on the strong to reckon with 
the infirmity, the prejudices of the weak in such matters 
in order to win them to the use of their freedom, and on 
this ground to restrict their own liberty. Thus St Paul 
acted towards the Judaisers when he circumcised Timothy, 
though he rightly refused to circumcise Titus in protest 
against their attempt to constrain him. 25 

In regard to the corfununion, the words, " Take, eat " 
are not to be understood as if the communicant can only 
communicate worthily by taking the bread and wine in 
his own hands. To understand these words literally and 
force on others a mere form of this kind is the height of 
folly, and he feels so strongly on this point that he threatens 
to leave Wittenberg if this sort of folly is persisted in. Not 

25 Sermons III. and IV. 

94 Luther and the Reformation 

that the touching of the bread and wine by the communicant 
is sinful. But it is not well to cause widespread offence 
by departing for such reasons from the old usage, which 
only allows the priest to handle the elements, and for which 
he seems to have an innate reverence. Whilst recognising 
communion in both kinds as the original institution, it is 
not to be forcibly introduced nor to be regarded as a sine 
qua non. Here, too, they are to beware of magnifying a 
mere form into an essential. Though he has approved of 
the introduction of such communion, he cannot endure this 
hasty zeal which has made it an ordinance binding on all, 
especially as it has been accompanied by much lightminded- 
ness and hypocrisy. For it is esteemed to be an essential 
mark of a good Christian to take the elements in both hands 
and communicate in both kinds, and then go home and 
get drunk. 26 Since the essential for participation in the 
Sacrament is faith in Christ, the Saviour from sin, it is 
foolish to turn it into an ordinance obligatory on all, as the 
Pope has done. Nay, without this indispensable faith, 
which few attain, it is far better to abstain, instead of 
running helter-skelter to partake without the appropriate 
spirit of fear and humility and the longing for the comfort 
which it imparts. 27 The fruit of this communion is love, and 
love is the grand test of the Christian spirit which he finds 
is lacking in all these proceedings in his absence. They 
have, indeed, the true Gospel and the pure Word of God. 
But they have failed to bring forth its fruit because they 
have been too much engrossed in self, too much swayed 
by self-will instead of self-denial. 28 Confession of sin on the 
part of one Christian to another is a New Testament practice, 
which he would fain see revived in the Christian community, 
and is not to be neglected, though he denies the right of 
the Pope to exact confession to the priest. He has found 
in his own experience in his spiritual conflict how helpful 
and comforting it is thus to seek instruction and relief 
in the midst of the trials of the spiritual life. " For I 
none better know how much comfort and strength it has 
brought me, who have often and sorely fought with the 

" Sermon V. 27 Ibid., VI. Ibid., VII. 

Sermons in Behalf of Moderation 95 

devil. I would long ago have been throttled by the devil 
but for this refuge of the soul. . . You have no idea what 
a terrible thing it is to face and overcome the devil. But 
I know what it means to eat salt with Satan. I know him 
only too well and he knows me. If you knew him as I do 
you would not so lightly give up confession and absolution." 
It is on this practical ground that he presses for its retention, 
whilst admitting that there is full absolution in the Gospel 
and ample consolation in baptism and the Lord's Supper 
apart from this practice. 

The sermons thus reflect the radical-conservative attitude 
of his writings in which, while attacking doctrines, institu- 
tions, and usages, he had shown himself disposed to pay 
tribute to religious expediency and limit the application 
of his principles, if individual liberty to hold and enunciate 
them were allowed. His doctrinal radicalism had in the last 
resort been curbed by his conservative temperament when 
it came to the practical question of discarding the old for 
the new. He shares, moreover, the Elector's fear of revolu- 
tion and his inborn reverence for the civil authority, though 
he certainly does not speak merely as the mouthpiece of 
the Elector's policy. There can be no doubt that in these 
sermons he is voicing his own convictions in emphasising 
expediency and moderation, limiting individual initiative, 
and reserving this right for the civil authority. Equally 
characteristic is his insistence on liberty in things not 
essential to faith. In opposition to the intolerance of the 
radical party, he appears as the advocate of religious 
toleration, though he is not prepared to yield an inch to the 
uncompromising enemies of the Gospel. He believes in 
the power of enlightened public opinion and patient self- 
restraint for the sake of others to vindicate the Gospel, and 
ultimately overcome prejudice against it or lack of faith 
in it. There is certainly force in the warning against the 
tendency to substitute for the tyranny of the Pope the 
literalism and the legalism which lay stress on the letter 
rather than the spirit of the Word, and would magnify 
certain forms at the expense of the liberty of the Gospel. 

On the other hand, there is a trace of soreness (jealousy 
would probably be too strong a word) over the predominance 

96 Luther and the Reformation 

of Carlstadt during his absence and a decided tendency to 
assert his claim to sole leadership. He is not content 
solely to argue on the question of the communion. He is 
not prepared to make allowance for honest difference of 
opinion on this subject, and threatens to leave Wittenberg 
unless his will prevails. He is not quite fair in assuming 
that the movement is the outcome of irresponsible fanaticism 
in opposition to constituted authority, and inclines too much 
to regard excesses which were only incidental, and which 
he himself had not taken very seriously on his furtive visit 
to Wittenberg, as its main characteristic. He overlooked 
the fact that the ordinance was the combined work of 
the University and the Town Council. He makes no 
attempt to consider the document on its own merits as a 
deliberate attempt to organise a new order in place of the 
old. He ignores the fact that it had the sanction of the 
local authority, even if it lacked that of the Elector. He 
regards it as the fruit of mere violence and indiscriminate 
zeal, while the fact seems to be that it did not include the 
demands of the extreme radical party. He forgets that the 
antagonism of the Romanist party, represented by the 
majority of the canons of All Saints, had also some share in 
fanning the popular excitement. He is rather too prone 
to demand sacrifice in favour of the weak brethren without 
asking himself whether, among these weak brethren, there 
were not a few antagonists of the evangelical cause. He 
is hardly fair to Carlstadt who was not disposed to yield 
so much as he to religious expediency and who, if narrower 
in his conception of the Gospel, had a keener sense of the 
necessity of adopting and applying an active policy in the 
interest of a practical Reformation. Moreover, there was 
room for difference of opinion on some of the points at 
issue, and he does show a tendency to treat rather lightly 
the obligation to restore the original institution of the 
communion and the need for drastic action against the 
popular superstition, undoubtedly associated with images 
and pictures and other conventional religious observances. 
One feels that he is rather evading the issue, which sooner 
or later he will be called on to face, in discouraging both 
individual and communal action and relying solely on the 

Sermons in Behalf of Moderation 97 

Word to affect and vindicate a practical Reformation. 
Would the Reformation, on the principle of merely preaching 
the Word, have had much chance of maintaining itself 
against the adherents of the old order, who, at the instigation 
of Duke George and other active enemies, were taking steps 
to repress it and with whose demands the Elector was fain 
to comply ? It is not the case, as Barge contends, that 
Luther was, albeit unwillingly, lending himself to the tactics 
of his enemies. 29 He was not acting a prescribed part in 
the pulpit of the parish church, but giving expression to 
his own convictions and trying to grapple with the impasse 
which the Elector's intervention and the lack of nerve 
on the part of his colleagues had produced. Defiance of the 
Romanists who would reassert their tyranny breathes 
throughout those sermons. But whether in doing so he 
did not adopt a too negative attitude in view of the vexatious 
tactics of the enemy is a different question. From this 
point of view one may fairly conclude that he would have 
been wiser to adopt a more constructive and militant 
attitude and thus give a definite practical lead, which many 
of the weaker brethren would, probably, under his influence, 
have followed. Moreover, he shows a rather pronounced 
tendency in these sermons to make himself the measure 
of the movement and to take too little account of the 
convictions of others, more logical and less conservative 
than he. One wonders whether he will be able to carry the 
spirit of forbearance, which he inculcates so admirably, 
the length of compromising, for the sake of the weak 
brethren, on matters of doctrine as well as practice ? On 
the questions of the Real Presence, baptism, free-will, for 

Meanwhile, this compromise took the form of a modifica- 
tion of the ordinance, heavily weighted on the side of 
concessions to the adherents of the old usages. Whilst 
private Masses were disallowed, the Latin Mass was restored 
with the exception of the sacrificial passages. Pictures and 

" Boehmer energetically rebuts Barge's version of Luther's interven- 
tion, though in rather a one-sided fashion. " Luther im Lichte der 
neueren Forschung," 129 f. See also K. Muller, " Luther und Karl- 
stadt," 88 f. 

98 Luther and the Reformation 

images in as far as they had not been destroyed were 
replaced in the churches, and confession and fasting resumed 
at the discretion of the individual. Communion in both 
kinds was conceded, but only privately, to those who might 
desire it, whilst the provisions of the ordinance respecting 
prostitution, the poor, and begging were allowed to remain 
in force. 

With this makeshift Luther had succeeded both in 
satisfying the Elector and rallying his colleagues, with the 
exception of Carlstadt, in support of the principle of religious 
expediency. His success in handling the situation was 
certainly a striking testimony to the power of the Word, 
in the form of these sermons, in exorcising party spirit as 
far as Wittenberg was concerned. Melanchthon staunchly 
abetted his policy, 30 and Schurf in a letter to the Elector 
voiced the general satisfaction that Luther had led his flock 
back to the truth, from which it had strayed under the 
influence of the now obnoxious preachers, "to the great joy 
of both learned and unlearned/* a Capito, who had come to 
Wittenberg to hear him, became a confirmed adherent in 
spite of the strain which the correspondence on " the Idol 
at Halle " had temporarily begotten. 32 Zwilling professed 
penitence and was received into favour, 33 Only Carlstadt 
remained obdurate and was forbidden to preach. 34 Luther's 
victory thus at the same time brought the first rift in the 
reforming ranks, which was unfortunately widened by the 
confiscation of the book 85 in which Carlstadt sought relief 
for his wounded feelings in an attack on the "tyrants," 
among whom he evidently reckoned his great fellow-reformer, 
though he did not mention him by name. This philippic was 
directed against the Romanist, Dungersheim von Ochsenf art. 
But Luther indirectly came in for a share of the anim- 
adversion of the angry author, and Luther was of opinion 
that he was actuated by jealousy and the striving to assert 
his own authority at the expense of his. 86 Most of his 
modern biographers have too readily shared his judgment. 

" Corp. Ref.," i. 566. * Ibid., iii. 315. 

Enders, iii. 307. " Corp. Ref,,' 1 i. 570. 

82 Ibid., iii. 307. " Ibid., iii. 326. 

" Ibid., iii. 315. 

Sermons in Behalf of Moderation 99 

Carlstadt deserves at least the credit of maintaining and 
developing his views single-handed in his own rather opin- 
ionated fashion. 

Although Luther had conceived a very unfavourable 
opinion of the Zwickau prophets from the reports 
Melanchthon had sent to the Wartburg, he reluctantly 
consented to grant them an interview, 37 and along with 
Melanchthon received Stiibner, Kellner (Cellarius), and 
another, whose name is not given, early in April. Like 
Stiibner, Kellner had had a university education at Tubingen 
and Wittenberg and was intimate with Melanchthon. 
Both professed to be in possession of a spiritual illumina- 
tion independent of the Scripture, and were eager to 
convert Luther to this higher revelation, directly inspired 
by the Spirit. Kellner accordingly opened the interview 
in very flattering terms Luther's vocation, he declared, 
was superior to that of the Apostles. Luther declined to be 
thus flattered at the expense of the Apostles, and proceeded 
to admonish them in a friendly tone against being wiser 
than the Scriptures and bade them beware of the wiles and 
lies of Satan. Whereupon Kellner burst into a furious 
tirade, during which Luther was unable to get in a single 
word. " Go your way and do as you list/' he curtly 
remarked when the storm of vituperation had subsided. 
Stiibner was more composed, though equally opinionated, 
and expostulated in an enigmatic and high-sounding jargon 
on the new revelation. Luther, he said, needed to be 
emancipated from the religious grossness in which he was 
still entangled (grobigkeit). He was still not in the condition 
of " immobility " (Unbeweglichkeit) in which the Spirit 
made known the mind of God to the individual soul. Asked 
to explain this jargon, he said that it could only be under- 
stood by those apt to receive his teaching. In proof of 
his inspiration he claimed to be able to tell at first sight 
what was in men's minds. As a test of his power of thought 
reading, Luther asked him to read his thoughts. " You 
axe reflecting in your mind/' came the assured reply, " that 

* 7 " Corp. Ref.," iii. 328, to Spalatin, I2th April. Prophetas istos 
novos passus sum. 

loo Luther and the Reformation 

my teaching is true/ 1 As a matter of fact, the question 
had suggested itself to him. But at once the words of 
Zechariah flashed into his mind, "the Lord rebuke thee, 
Satan/' and thus put on his guard against this devil's trick, 
he stoutly refused to accept any revelation beyond Scripture 
unless it were substantiated by a miracle. It was a crude 
method of testing truth. Luther's limited conception of 
inspiration left little enough room for the progressive 
manifestation of truth in accordance with individual experi- 
ence and enlightenment, though in theory he did assume 
the possibility of such a revelation. He refused to admit 
that these visionaries might possibly have discovered aspects 
of the truth which he might have missed. To him the idea 
of a subjective or a progressive revelation, apart from a 
special miracle in attestation of it, was only one more devil's 
wile, and Stiibner's didactic jargon was certainly not fitted 
to convince him of their claim to have superseded the 
revealed Word. In conclusion, Stiibner assured him that 
the miracles he demanded would erelong be forthcoming. 
" My God," retorted Luther, " will forbid your God to work 
miracles." " God Himself," defiantly returned Stxibner, 
" shall not deprive me of my doctrine." The heated colloquy 
thus ended at daggers drawn, and the prophets decamped 
to Kemberg, from which they sent him a letter exhorting 
him to think better of the matter. " And so," adds Luther, 
"good-bye, dear Marcus." 38 In the following September 
he had a visit from Storch, who was accompanied by another 
cultured convert, Dr Westerburg, a Cologne jurist. Storch 
was more concerned with the question of adult baptism 
than with that of a new revelation, in which he differed 
from Stiibner. But neither his views on baptism nor his 
personal character made a favourable impression. Of 
Westerburg, on the other hand, Luther formed a high 
opinion as an enthusiastic though impressionable seeker 
after truth. 89 

He had, however, by no means heard the last word on 

8 Enders, iii. 328, 331; " Tischreden," ii. 306-307; iii. 13-16 
(Weimar ed.). 

*' IHd. t iii. 350; iv. 2. 

Sermons in Behalf of Moderation 101 

the subject, and Stiibner's boast of coming miracles was 
erelong to verify itself in the startling development of this 
subjective aspect of the Reformation movement, which 
Luther vainly strove to stem by his appeal to the written 



LUTHER strove to win adherents outside Wittenberg for his 
policy of moderation in letters to Hausmann, Duke John 
Frederick, Spalatin, Lang, Link, John Hess, Giittel, and 
others. 1 Very remarkable is the constant appeal in these 
letters for liberty of conscience in matters of belief and 
usage. In this respect Luther has emancipated himself in 
a remarkable degree from the mediaeval conception of an 
enforced uniformity in the service of religion. His own 
experience of the Roman system had given him an insight 
into the true spirit of the Gospel, all the more striking in 
view of his dogmatic temperament and prophetic fervour. 
He is still at this stage the thoroughgoing advocate of 
toleration and a large-minded charity towards opponents 
whether within or outside the reform movement. There are 
golden passages in these letters which, in urging the policy 
of moderation, nobly express this reaction against the 
despotic mediaeval spirit. " See to it," he writes to 
Hausmann at Zwickau in the spirit of the eight sermons, 
" that you permit no innovations to be made by public 
decree and oppressive methods. By the Word alone these 
usages are to be impugned and overthrown, which our people 
at Wittenberg have attempted to do by force and violence. 
I indeed condemn the Mass as a sacrifice and a good work. 
But I desire to lay hands on no one or to compel the un- 
willing and the unbelieving by force. I condemn by the 
Word alone. He wKo believes let him believe and follow 
his faith. He who does not believe, let him not believe and 

1 Endeis, iii. 311 f.; " Werke," 53, 118-119 (Erlangen ed.). 


Progress as Practical Reformer 103 

be left alone. No one is to be compelled to faith or to those 
things which are of faith. He is to be drawn to the Word in 
order that, believing freely, he may come of his own accord. 
I condemn images, but by the Word ; not directing that they 
may be burned, but that confidence may not be placed in 
them, as has hitherto been the case, and still is. They 
will fall of themselves if the people, properly instructed, 
come to know that these things are nothing in the sight of 
God. Thus I condemn the papal laws concerning confes- 
sion, communion, prayers, fasting, but only by the Word 
in order that I may set free the consciences of men. Where 
these are liberated, where these are freed, they can observe 
these things on account of the weak, or not observe them 
among those who are strong in the faith. And thus charity 
will reign in regard to these external works and laws." 2 

In order to commend his policy to a wider circle, he 
sent the gist of his eight sermons to the press under the 
title, " On the Partaking of the Sacrament in Both Forms," 
which appeared shortly after the middle of April. 3 This 
plea for moderation and toleration does not, however, 
justify indifference to the Gospel on the part of believers. 
There must, he insists in conclusion, be no betrayal of 
Christ in the face of the enemies of the Gospel. If, in order 
to evade persecution, the believer adduces the pretext 
that he is no Lutheran, but an adherent of the Gospel and 
the Holy Church, this is assuredly to deny Christ. It 
matters not, indeed, what either Luther or the Pope thinks 
of the Gospel, since neither has died for sinners as Christ 
has done. Christ alone is lord and master. It matters not 
whether Luther, Claus, or George preaches Christ. The 
person of the preacher is nothing; his teaching is the 
essential thing. But if the believer is convinced that Luther 
has proclaimed the true evangelical teaching, he is bound 
to maintain it against its persecutors, whilst following 
Christ's example in loving his enemies and eschewing all 
thought of revenge. 4 

a Enders, iii. 312. 

3 Ibid., iii. 319. 325, 33, 342; " Werke," 53, 119 (Erlangen ed.). 
It is given in " Werke," x., Pt. II., 11 f. (Weimar ed.). 
* " Werke," x., Pt. II., 39-41. 

104 Luther and the Reformation 

In behalf of this policy he undertook a mission to a 
number of towns in Saxony at the end of April and the 
beginning of May, and preached at Borna, Altenburg, 
Zwickau, Eilenburg, and Torgau. The mission was also 
designed as an offset to the visitation of Saxony by the 
Bishop of Meissen, in accordance with the anti-Lutheran 
mandate of the Imperial Regency at Niirnberg. He even 
ventured to pass through the territory of Duke George 
on the return journey from Zwickau to Borna, though he 
took the precaution to doff his monk's habit and travel by 
night. 5 

At Altenburg he was brought face to face with the 
practical difficulty of carrying out his policy of forbearance 
towards conservative brethren. In the middle of April 
the Town Council had applied to him for an evangelical 
preacher for the parish church of St Bartholomew. 6 He 
recommended the appointment of the repentant Zwilling, 
whom he now warmly befriended. 7 The Council readily 
accepted the nomination. But the Provost and Canons of 
Our Lady on the Mount would not hear of the appointment 
of the renegade monk and insisted on their right to appoint 
to the benefice. Instead of waiving his nomination in 
accordance with his own principle of reckoning with the 
scruples of others, Luther, on his visit to Altenburg on the 
28th April, drew up a memorandum to be submitted to 
the Elector, in which he maintained the right of the Council, 
as embodying the public authority, to choose an evangelical 
preacher in spite of the opposition of the enemies of the 
Gospel. The Provost and Canons, he urged, are not true 
pastors, but wolves in sheep's clothing. They have forfeited 
their right to their privileges and dues by their infidelity 
to the Gospel, and it is the right and duty of the 
Council, yea of every Christian, to resist their pretensions 
on the principle, which Carlstadt had adduced in defence 
of the Wittenberg innovations, that it is incumbent to 
obey God rather than man. Hence the alternative to the 

* Notices of the Visitation in Enders, iii. 346 f. 

e Ibid., iii. 333-334- 

7 " Werke," 53, 131-132 (Erlangen ed.). 

Progress as Practical Reformer 105 

Provost and Canons either to forego their privileges and dues, 
or to preach the pure Gospel alone as the condition of retain- 
ing them. 8 In a letter to the Elector he not only vindicated 
the right of the Council, on scriptural and public grounds, to 
change the religious order of things, but urged him as a 
Christian prince to enforce it throughout his dominions in 
spite of the opposition of recalcitrant clergy. 9 Though the 
Elector was not disposed to favour the obnoxious Zwilling, 10 
he agreed to Luther's demand that he should himself provide 
an acceptable substitute and, in spite of the renewed clerical 
opposition, on the 28th June appointed the evangelical 
Link, who subsequently resigned his office as Vicar-General 
of the Augustinian Order and introduced communion in 
both kinds at Altenburg. 11 

Luther was thus driven by the logic of the situation to 
make use of other expedients than the preaching of the 
Word in furthering the Gospel. This preaching inevitably 
led to division and party spirit which sooner or later made 
compromise toleration on Lutheran lines impracticable. 
At Erfurt, for instance, the adherents of the old and the 
new order were at bitter enmity. The former found an 
unbending champion in Usingen, Luther's old teacher, 
who had years before become a member of the Augustinian 
Order ; the latter in Lang, who in April had renounced 
his office as Prior, and in stating his reasons for so doing had 
roundly and rashly denounced all priors as asses and 
ignoramuses. His example was followed by many of his 
brethren who inveighed from the pulpits of a number of the 
Erfurt churches against the old usages in the spirit of a 
Carlstadt and Zwilling, and gained a large following among 
the citizens. Luther was very dubious about the wisdom 
of these aggressive proceedings and the wholesale withdrawal 
of the monks. It appeared to him, he wrote to Lang, that 
many of the monks were leaving the monasteries for no 

8 Enders, iii. 347-349. 

" Werke," 53, 134-136 (Erlangen ed.) ; cf. Enders, iii. 351, where 
he urges the same policy in reference to the church at Eilenburg, and 
offers the choice of one of two suitable preachers. 

10 Enders, iii. 354. 

11 Ibid., iii. 354-355* 370-374, 379, 381, 434-435- 

io6 Luther and the Reformation 

other reason than that for which they had entered them, 
viz., for the sake of the belly and carnal liberty. 12 Whilst 
fearing that the result would be a repetition of the disorders 
which he had suppressed at Wittenberg, he declined Lang's 
invitation to visit Erfurt on the ground of the danger of the 
journey in the case of one who was under the imperial ban. 
He promised to write a public missive instead, and ultimately, 
on the loth July, dispatched an " Epistle to the Church at 
Erfurt." ^ He chose as his theme the invocation of saints, 
one of the burning questions which was being discussed in 
both the pulpits and the press. Whilst he has ceased to 
attribute real validity to the intercession of the saints and 
emphasises the sufficiency of confiding in Christ alone, he 
will allow the weak brethren to pray to the saints if they 
choose. He repeats his caveat against compelling others to 
accept the Gospel and admonishes in characteristic fashion 
the extreme preachers to moderate their zeal and eschew 
mere popularity. His appeal fell on deaf ears. The 
opinionated Usingen would not yield an inch. " Age," 
wrote Luther to Lang, quoting the vernacular proverb, 
" avails not against folly." u In October he felt safe enough 
in the ever-increasing number of his adherents to journey 
to Erfurt in the company of Melanchthon and Agricola. 
He was enthusiastically acclaimed and feasted 15 during his 
stay of a couple of days (20th to 22nd October), and preached 
several evangelical sermons appropriate to the situation. 16 
On the return journey he spent a week at Weimar, and at 
the request of Duke John and his son, John Frederick, 
preached another series of evangelical sermons in the 
presence of the court and the people. 17 

His mission to Erfurt did not, however, succeed in 
establishing a feasible compromise. Usingen, whose name 
he parodied into Unsingen (Nonsense), continued on the war- 
path , 18 and the two parties remained at daggers' ends. Nor 

12 Enders, iii. 323-324- 14 Enders, iii. 403. 

" " Werke," x., Pt. II., 164 f. " Corp. Ref.," i. 579. 

16 Ibid.* i. 579. The sermons are given in " Werke," x., Pt. III., 
352 f. 

17 " Werke, x., Pt. III., 371 f. 

18 Enders, iv. 27. 

Progress as Practical Reformer 107 

did the policy of mutual forbearance ultimately prove a 
success at Wittenberg itself, where the Chapter of All 
Saints continued to sing Masses for the dead and to retain 
the old order intact. Luther himself bore with increasing 
impatience the incongruity of suffering this " Bethaven," 
or house of sin, as he called it, in the citadel of the evangelical 
movement, and already, in a letter to Spalatin in July 1522, 
urged that the Elector should forcibly intervene and apply 
its revenues for the furtherance of the Gospel. 19 He repeated 
his demand in the following December, 20 and on the and 
January 1523 roundly declared that this forbearance with 
the scruples of the papists had become a scandal and a 
stumbling-block to the progress of the Gospel. He still 
professes to respect the principle of liberty and would not 
compel anyone to faith and piety. But their Masses and 
their relic worship being, he rather questionably argues, 
equivalent to spiritual fornication, it is the bounden duty 
of the prince to abolish these Masses and deprive the Chapter 
of its revenues, and thus make a beginning with the work 
of reform. 21 

The Elector was not disposed thus forcibly to intervene 
in the interest of the Gospel. He had a partiality for the 
foundation which his forbears had endowed and for the 
collection of relics which he had spent so lavishly in aug- 
menting from about 5,000 to 18,000 articles. As a politician, 
he had, moreover, to walk warily in the matter in view of 
the forthcoming meeting of the Diet at Niirnberg, and for 
this reason he took up the same conservative attitude 
towards Luther's demand as he had shown towards those of 
the advanced reformers during his absence in the Wartburg. 
A two-years' duel between him and the conservative members 
of the Chapter on the one band, and Luther on the other, 
ensued before he at last gave way at the end of 1524. 
During this interval, Luther practically played the part 
of Carlstadt over again in his insistence on the repression 
of the scandal of this " idolatry." In the face of the Elector's 
opposition and with the support of Jonas, the Provost of 

Enders, iii. 417. * Ibid., iv. 46-47- 

il Ibid., iv. 54. Ut fieret exordium aliquod rerum novandarum. 

io8 Luther and the Reformation 

the Chapter, he appealed to the canons themselves to 
undertake the work of reform. 22 The canons referred the 
question to the Elector. Whereupon Luther emphasised 
the obligation of conscience and asked what the Elector 
had to do with a matter of conscience, in which it behoved 
them to obey God rather than man. 23 He submitted to 
them a scheme of reform 24 which was supported by Jonas 
in a missive to the Elector, 25 but which the Elector summarily 
rejected. 26 Though the opposition in the Chapter had by 
this time dwindled to what Luther calls " three or four 
pigs and bellyservers," the Elector remained impervious to 
further representations, and fully a year elapsed before 
Luther at last determined to force a decision in an ultimatum 
to the Chapter to suppress the obnoxious services, under 
threat of forcible measures in case of refusal. 27 In response 
to this appeal the Elector reminded him of his principle 
of relying on the Word of God alone to bring about such a 
reform. 28 For Luther, however, the principle, which he had 
applied against Carlstadt and the advanced reformers two 
and a half years earlier, was now out of date, and in spite of 
the Elector's protest 29 he proceeded to enforce his ultimatum. 
On the 27th November he preached a violent sermon on 
the abomination of the Mass and called on all princes and 
public authorities to put down the evil thing 30 if they 
would escape the wrath of God. He was supported in 
his demand by the Town Council and the University, 31 and 
by the people who broke the windows of the obnoxious 
Dean of the Chapter, Some days later the opposition gave 

* Enders, iv. 89; " Werke," 53, 178-180 (Erlangen ed.), ist March 
and nth July 1523. 

" " Werke," 53, W 

** Enders, Iv. 210-213, iQth Aug. 

26 " Corp. Ref.," i. 628-638, 24th Aug. ; Kawerau, " Jonasbriefe," 86. 

" ( : Corp, Ref.," i. 641, 4th Oct. 

87 " Werke," 53, 269-270 (Erlangen ed.), i?th Nov. 1524. 

29 Enders, v. 55, 24th Nov. 

* Burkhardt, " Luther's Briefe," 76. 

* " Werke," xv. 764 f. This sermon is the basis of his philippic 
*' Vom Misbrauch der Stillmesse," which he published early in 1525. 
" Werke," xviii. 22 f. 

81 Walch, xix. 1453-1457. 

Progress as Practical Reformer 109 

way, the Dean informing the Elector that he could no 
longer maintain the Mass. " We have at last compelled the 
canons to agree to abolish the Mass," wrote Luther to 
Amsdorf on the and December. 32 Shortly after the Dean 
offered the Wittenberg monastery, of which he and the 
Prior, Brisger, were now the only occupants, to the Elector, 
who accepted the gift and, in return, presented it, along with 
the garden, to Luther as a dwelling-house. 33 

Meanwhile he had been approximating more and more 
to the position of the advanced reformers in respect of 
worship and usages. By the beginning of 1523 he had 
come to the conclusion that the time had come for a more 
radical reform of the service of the Mass in the parish church. 
He was now prepared freely to concede communion in both 
kinds in deference to the demands of those to whom the 
current service was an offence. They had, he wrote to 
Spalatin on the I4th January, practised indulgence towards 
the weak brethren long enough. There are hardly any such 
left, and it is now time to give free scope to the Gospel and 
make use of their liberty in this matter, in deference to the 
insistent and general demand for this reform. 34 On the 2$rd 
March he took in hand the further reform of worship by 
introducing daily services for edification in the parish church, 
in place of the daily Masses which had been discontinued 
since his return from the Wartburg. The evangelical char- 
acter of this tentative reform is reflected in the " Order of 
Worship/' which he shortly after drew up for the church at 
Leisnig. 35 He finds three great abuses in the worship of 
the church. God's Word is neglected. Many fables and 

82 Enders, v. 80. 

88 " Werke," 53, 278-279 (Erlangen ed.) ; Enders, v. 86. 

84 Enders, iv. 63. Utramque speciem libere dandam et accipiendam 
deinceps censeo. Satis enim hactenus infirmis indultum est, et ubique 
res ista jam Cantata et nota, cum ferine assueti sint majora ferre. Texnpus 
est ut evangelic locus fiat, et ferme jam non infirmi, sed potius pertinaces 
qui rei tarn notse et cantatse usu offenduntur. Itaque libertate utamur 
in hac causa. 

85 Von Ordenung des Gottisdiensts inn der Gemeine, " Werke," xii. 
35 f. ; cf.xi. 61-62, which informs us that at the end of his sermon on 
the nth March he announced his intention of introducing daily service. 
The Order is also given in Sealing, i. 2-3 (1902). 

1 1 o Luther and the Reformation 

lies have crept into it and it has been regarded as a means 
of meriting grace and salvation, to the detriment of faith. 
For the reform of these abuses it is essential that in every 
assembly for worship the Gospel should be preached. Where 
this is lacking, it were better that the people should abstain 
from attending. The essential thing is the instruction of 
the people in God's Word. To this end, therefore, the 
congregation is invited to assemble morning and evening to 
hear a portion of the Old and New Testament read and 
expounded in accordance with the Apostolic practice (i Cor. 
i. 27). The whole Bible is thus to be systematically read 
and expounded in these daily services, which shall be 
concluded with prayer and praise as the pastor shall select 
from the liturgy, and the people thereby become versed in 
the Scriptures. No constraint is, however, to be used. 
The people are to be exhorted to come freely to these 
services, not merely as a matter of obligation or merit, as 
under the old system, but only for the glory of God and the 
common good. They are to last no longer, as a rule, than 
an hour, in order that those present may not be fatigued 
and burdened, as in the monasteries and churches, with 
wearisome and long-drawn out devotions (asses' work, 
eselsarbeit, is the term he applies to them). On Sundays, 
when Mass and Vespers are still to be sung and the Sacrament 
of the Lord's Supper celebrated in accordance for the most 
part with the liturgy, the reading and preaching of the 
Word also form the main essential of the services. The 
celebration of Saints' Days, with the exception of that of 
the Virgin Mary, is abolished, though edifying passages 
from the lives of the saints may be read on Sundays after the 
Gospel of the day. " Other changes may be made in due 
time. But the end should be that the Word should have 
full sway and the service be no longer a mere droning and 
drawling as has hitherto been the case. That Mary should 
sit at Christ's feet and hear His Word is the better part. 
His Word is eternal; the rest must pass away, however 
much it may trouble Martha." 36 

Among these eventual changes was the reform of the 

" Werke," xii. 37; Sehling, i. 3. 

Progress as Practical Reformer 1 1 1 

Mass. During the summer of 1523 he was contemplating the 
introduction of this reform, and was repeatedly urged by 
Hausmann and others to undertake it. 37 Pressure of work 
prevented him from carrying out his purpose till the autumn, 
when he at length found time to realise it in the " Formula 
Missae," or Service of the Mass, which he drew up for the 
parish church at Wittenberg and printed for the guidance 
of Hausmann and other reformers. On the I3th November 
he wrote to Hausmann that the new form would very soon 
be in operation at Wittenberg, 38 and on the 4th December 
sent him a printed copy of the new Order, 39 which he 
dedicated to him. The Order being designed for other 
churches as well as that of Wittenberg, he disclaims any 
desire to make precipitate changes, as in the case of the 
radical innovators, and still professes to respect the scruples 
of weak brethren. He retains, in fact, a large portion of 
the old service, and whilst discarding what he deems 
objectionable, leaves room for difference of view or practice, 
and is ready to welcome suggested improvements from 
others. At the same time, he does not hesitate to assert 
that the celebration of the Lord's Supper, as instituted by 
Christ, has been so deformed by human invention, that 
nothing but the name remains. The additions of the Fathers, 
who added certain Psalms and portions of the Gospels and 
Epistles and the Kyrie Eleison, were altogether laudable. 
Nor can any objection be taken to the addition of the 
Gloria, the Hallelujah, the Nicene Creed, the Sanctus, the 
Agnus Dei, etc. But the later additions, which he ascribes 
to the ambition of power and the mercenary spirit of the 
priesthood, and in which the Mass is conceived as a sacrifice 
and a priestly monopoly (monopolium sacwdotale), he con- 
demns aoid utterly rejects 

With this general preface he proceeds to deal in detail 
with the introductory part of the Mass, which led up to 
the second part in which the actual communion takes place. 
Whilst retaining the greater portion of the liturgy relative 
to part one, he leaves to the minister or bishop (for so he 

tf Enders, iv. 215, 253, 254-255, 259-260, Aug.-Nov. 
8 Md., iv. 259. * 9 Ibid., iv. 261. 

112 Luther and the Reformation 

designates the celebrant in substitution for the term priest) 
considerable discretion to omit or abridge. The celebrant 
should avoid prolixity, which engenders tedium, and simplify 
the liturgy as far as possible in order not to weary the 
congregation. 40 He would prefer to introduce passages 
from the Gospels and Epistles which emphasise faith in the 
evangelical sense, though in the meantime the celebrant 
may use the stated passages and supply this lack of evan- 
gelical teaching in the sermon, which may be given at the 
beginning of the service or after the repetition of the Creed. 
Personally, he would prefer that it should be given at the 
beginning of the service, since the sermon is an invitation 
to faith in the Gospel, the Mass the actual appropriation of 
the Gospel by the believer at the Lord's Table. It is at this 
point that he mates the most radical change in the service, 
in which the priest performs the supreme mystery of trans- 
forming the elements into the body and blood of Christ and 
offers them for the sins of the people. This part he suppresses 
as "an abomination and idolatry," and whilst retaining 
portions of the liturgy, proceeds to celebrate the rite in 
accordance with the words of institution. He would have 
these words, which the priest, in order to emphasise the 
mystery of transubstantiation, repeated in a whisper, 
recited in a clear voice in order that they might be heard 
by the whole congregation. He would also, in deference to 
the weak brethren, elevate the elements, though not for the 
purpose of worshipping them. Thereafter follows, with 
the appropriate liturgy, the communion in both kinds, 
first by the minister and then by the people. 

This order is, however, not to be received in the sense 
of a law to be followed to the letter. Diversity of rites 
has prevailed in the Church from early times, and Christians 
are free to change and amend them as they may deem 
advisable. " For although we cannot do without external 
rites, just as we cannot do without food and drink, these 
things do not commend us to God, but faith and charity. 
In these, therefore, the word of Paul is to prevail, ' The 
kingdom of God consists not in meat and drink, but in 

* " Werke," xii. 210 ; Sehling, i. 5. 

Progress as Practical Reformer 113 

righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.' " 41 
Similarly in the matter of vestments, candles, vessels, 
music, incense, etc., freedom is allowable, though he dis- 
allows the pomp and splendour of ceremonial with which 
the celebration has been invested. Private Mass is in- 
compatible with the conception of the Supper as a fellowship 
or communion, and is, therefore, disallowed. While confes- 
sion before communion is no longer obligatory, those who 
desire to communicate shall make known their desire to the 
minister, who shall satisfy himself by examination of their 
knowledge and life that they are worthy to partake. 
Notorious sinners, such as adulterers and fornicators, are to 
be debarred from participation unless they give manifest 
proofs of repentance. Communion in both kinds, in accord- 
ance with the primitive institution and practice, is the 
only form to be observed, and he will not agree to refer the 
question to the decision of a Council. He would introduce 
hymns in the vernacular, and looks forward to the time 
when the whole Mass shall be said in the language of the 
people and piously inspired poets shall enrich the reformed 
Church with a vernacular hymnology. Meanwhile, let them 
make use of such hymns, too few in number, as are already 
available. For instance, " Gott sei gelobet," " Nun bitten 
wir den Heiligen Geist," " Ein Kindelin so lobelich," which 
should be sung not merely by the choir, but by the people. 
He himself was erelong to supply this dearth of sacred 
songs in the vernacular. The religious muse had already 
in the course of this year inspired him to celebrate in verse 
the martyrdom in the Netherlands of the first two victims 
of the evangelical faith, on the 1st of February 1523, in the 
poem beginning, " Ein neues lied wir heben an/' Before the 
year was at an end he had given proof of his own gift as a 
hymn writer in " Nu freut Euch lieben Christen Gemein," 
" Ach Gott vom Himmel sieh darein," " Aus tiefer noth 
schrei ich zu Dir." He wrote to Spalatin and others 
encouraging them to turn a number of the Psalms into verse 
for the use of the people in worship. 42 

In the meantime Luther left the baptismal service 

* l " Werke," xii. 214; Sehling, i. 7. " Enders, iv. 273- 

ri4 Luther and the Reformation 

largely unchanged and contented himself with translating 
it into German, and himself using the vernacular and 
commending its use to others. 43 But he shared the current 
conception of baptism as an act of regeneration, and felt that 
its celebration in an unintelligible language tended to obscure 
its significance and render it a more or less formal ceremony 
on the part of the parents. Moreover, he believed that faith 
is generated in the infant at baptism in virtue of the prayers 
of priest and parents. He, therefore, added an exhortation in 
which he impressed on them the necessity and the efficacy 
of personal faith and earnest participation in these prayers. 
The mere external and symbolic parts of the rite (the exor- 
cism of the infant by the priest, etc,} were, by comparison, 
of the least importance and altogether without profit to the 
infant, apart from the new birth wrought by God's grace 
in this sacrament. From this point of view he rates the 
rite very high as the means whereby God regenerates the 
soul, delivers it from the power of the devil, sin, and death, 
and makes it the heir of eternal life. Though he would 
fain simplify the ceremonial part of it, he leaves it in the 
meantime practically intact in deference to the scruples of 
the weak. 44 

In issuing the reformed service of the Mass, Luther 
assumes the right of the churches to make such changes 
in virtue of their inherent powers. This right he had 
already sought to vindicate at the instance of the church at 
Leisnig in an important document dealing with the organisa- 
tion of the Christian community. In this document, which 
he issued in the spring of I523, 45 he elaborates the thesis 
that, on the ground of Scripture, " the Christian congregation 
or community has the right and power to judge of doctrine 

Das Tauf Biichlein Verdeutscht, "Werke," xii. 42 f . ; Sehling, 
i. 1 8 f. (1523). The translation appears to have been used shortly after 
the " Order of Service." 

44 A shorter form of the baptismal service in the vernacular, dated 
by Walch 1523, in which more material changes were made, is also 
ascribed to Luther. Kawerau adduces weighty arguments against its 
ascription to Luther, who, it seems safer to conclude, only made such 
changes in the revision of 1526. 

< 6 He announced his intention to do so in a letter of 29th Jan., in 
response to the request of the Leisnig church. Enders, iv. 69-71. 

Progress as Practical Reformer 115 

and appoint and depose its teachers." 46 What constitutes 
for Luther the Christian community is the preaching of the 
pure Gospel. His model is the primitive community which 
the preaching of the Gospel called into existence, and of 
which it was the directing force. It is not and cannot be 
constituted by mere ecclesiastical law, since it is a spiritual 
association to which temporal or human law does not apply. 
" For the soul of man is an eternal thing, above all that is 
temporal. Therefore it can only be constituted and ruled 
by the divine Word." 47 With this fundamental and 
radical contention he rejects the historic constitution of the 
Church, with its developed hierarchy and ecclesiastical 
ordinances, as a human organisation which is incompatible 
with the spiritual character of the Christian association 
or society. He finds the warrant for this conception in 
John x. and other passages from the Gospels and Epistles. 
Christ is the shepherd of the flock which hears His voice 
and follows Him and refuses to follow the stranger. There- 
with He gave to the flock the power to judge whether the 
teaching is in accord with His voice or not. The voice of 
the Pope, bishops, councils, with their man-made laws and 
ordinances, has no validity against this fundamental principle 
which involves a radical revolution of the ecclesiastical 

Since the preaching of the Gospel is an essential of this 
community, and the bishops, under the present unchristian 
regime, do not and will not provide preachers of the Gospel, 
the community itself has the right and duty to provide such. 
Every Christian, in fact, in virtue of the priesthood of all 
believers, is entitled and commissioned to proclaim and 
spread the Gospel, especially in places where there are no 
true believers, without any call or commission from others. 
Thus did Stephen, Philip the Evangelist, and Apollos, for 
instance, proclaim the Word in the Apostolic Age without 
any call from the Apostles. Even where a community of 
believers exists, the individual believer is entitled to edify 
or correct his brethren, if necessary, as long as he does 
so decently and in order. How much more has the whole 

" Werke," ad. 408 f. 4? Rid., xi. 409- 

1 1 6 Luther and the Reformation 

community the right to choose one to preach the Word in 
place of the others. But did not Paul and Barnabas and 
other Apostles appoint presbyters in the churches founded 
by them ? Certainly, and if the bishops were really con- 
cerned for the Gospel, they might also be allowed to do so. 
But in these days the worldly minded bishops are wolves 
in sheep's clothing, enemies of the Gospel, who are fitted 
only to drive asses and lead dogs. Even if they were worthy 
of their office, they would have no right to appoint preachers 
without the will and choice of the community. For neither 
Paul, nor any other Apostle, appointed a presbyter or deacon 
without the choice of the community. And in these evil 
times, when the bishops so glaringly belie the Gospel and 
neglect and despise the highest function in the Church 
the preaching of the Word the community can and ought 
to do without their confirmation. 48 

As in doctrine, so in organisation, Luther thus has 
recourse to the Word and seeks to revive the primitive 
community in place of the mediaeval hierarchic Church. 
For this Church he substitutes the spiritual democracy of 
the New Testament in his attempt to vindicate and organise 
the everspreading evangelical movement which he has 
started. He does so without concerning himself with the 
rights and claims of the ecclesiastical or the civil power. 
He boldly sets out to establish outside the Church and within, 
but independent of, the State, a sovereign, self-governing, 
religious community on thoroughly democratic lines, in 
virtue of the Word and the spiritual priesthood of believers. 
Truly a far-reaching and momentous project, which he 
developed in the autumn of the same year in a work addressed 
to the Bohemian Christians which, in response to their 
request, appeared in November, 49 

He not only maintained the right of the Christian 
community to exercise its inherent powers as a religious 
association. He invested it with the right to appropriate 
the ecclesiastical revenues for the common good. Under his 
guidance and with the co-operation of the Town Council and 

Werke,"xi. 411-416. 

49 Ibid., xii. 169 f. De instituendis Ministris Ecclesiae. 

Renewed Polemic from Wittenberg 117 

a local nobleman, Seb. von Kotteritz, the community at 
Leisnig, to which he had paid a visit in September I522, 50 
drew up, in January 1523, an ordinance on the lines of that 
adopted at Wittenberg under Carlstadt's auspices. 51 In 
this document all ecclesiastical property and revenues are 
made over to a common chest for the support of the 
evangelical clergy, the poor, education, etc. Luther added 
a preface in defence of the appropriation of ecclesiastical 
endowments for these purposes. This appropriation, he 
contends, is justifiable on the ground of the misuse of these 
endowments in the service of error and superstition. But 
whilst depriving the priests and the monks of these revenues 
and devoting them to the public good, he would not force 
anyone to accept the new order, and would provide mainten- 
ance for the priests and monks who adhere to the old order, 
and assist those who decide to devote themselves to a secular 
occupation. He would also assign a portion to the poor 
descendants of pious founders on the ground that it is not 
or should not have been their intention to deprive their 
relatives of subsistence. At the same time, he warns against 
the greed and selfishness of those who are out to enrich 
themselves by laying hands on this property. The warning 
was by no means superfluous. The Town Council and the 
church at Leisnig were erelong at variance over the question 
of its disposal, and Luther fears that his equitable plan will 
stand a poor chance of realisation at the hands of those who 
are on the outlook for a share of the spoil. " For greed is a 
disobedient, unbelieving rascal." 52 


These changes naturally intensified the antagonism of the 
adherents of the old order and involved him in renewed 
controversy with opponents old and new. This polemic 
is lacking in the originality of the earlier period in which he 
evolved his distinctive teaching in conflict with the scholastic 

50 Enders, iv. 8 ; cf. 69. 

51 Werke," xh. II f. Ordenung eyns gemeynen Kastens. 
** Ibid., xii. 12. 

1 1 8 Luther and the Reformation 

theology, the Papacy, and the institutions of the Church. 
In general, he merely reiterates and maintains this teaching 
as the developing situation demands. In these later contro- 
versial writings the prophet tends to disappear in the 
protagonist of the ever-widening movement which the 
prophet has called into being. He has little to add to his 
prophetic message, except by way of expansion or vindica- 
tion. There is, however, no diminution in the pugnative, 
self-assertive spirit of the earlier writings. His confidence 
in himself and his cause has, in fact, become intensified 
since the Diet of Worms and the long vigil in the Wartburg. 
He is no longer fighting with his back to the wall. He now 
faces his opponents as the leader of an ever-widening, militant 
movement, and while professing to rely on the Word to 
assert and vindicate itself, is ever on the alert to parry or 
strike a blow in its behalf. His return from the Wartburg 
is that of the victor, not the vanquished, eager to face the 
foe once more in open conflict, sure of ultimate victory, 
though an outlaw in the midst of enemies, bereft of all 
protection, except that of heaven. 63 " We believe/ 1 he 
wrote to Link within a fortnight after his return, " that 
Christ, the Son of God, is the Lord of life and death. Who, 
therefore, is he that we should fear. We have the first 
fruits of victory. We triumph over the papal tyranny 
which hitherto has oppressed kings and princes. How 
much more shall we conquer and spurn the princes them- 
selves. He does not lie who has said, ' Thou hast put all 
things under His feet/ " He foresees, indeed, that a struggle 
between the friends and foes of the Gospel is inevitable. 
The war of the pen, he fears, will erelong be followed by 
the war of the sword. Satan will not rest till he has deluged 
the whole of Germany in its own blood. 54 If the princes go 
on deferring to that stupid brain of Duke George, there will 
surely come an upheaval which will destroy rulers and 
magistrates and will at the same time involve the whole 
clergy. " The populace is everywhere in agitation. It has 
eyes to see. It neither will nor can be suppressed by force. 
It is the Lord who works these things and hides His threats 

68 Enders, iii. 3I3-3I4- M Ibid., iii. 314. 

Renewed Polemic from Wittenberg 119 

and these forthcoming dangers from the eyes of princes. 
Yea, through their blunders and violence He will bring these 
things to pass, so that I seem to see Germany wading 
in blood/' 65 For himself, though deploring these dread 
portents, he was never so fearless and confident in the 
triumph of his cause. 

He began this active campaign from Wittenberg against 
the enemy by issuing his " Caveat against Human 
Teaching " 56 In this tract he develops afresh his funda- 
mental principle that only what is taught in the Word of 
God is authoritative and obligatory, and that what has 
been subsequently added by men has no validity and is 
to be considered as mere human invention. It is, therefore, 
to be rejected as contrary to the Word. At the outset he 
quotes Deuteronomy iv. 2 : "Ye shall not add unto the 
Word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish 
aught from it." But his appeal is not to Moses, but to 
Christ and the Apostles, from whom he quotes a series of 
passages in support of his thesis and argues from them, 
with no little force, against the vast accretion of teaching, 
ordinance, and usage which has been imposed on the Church. 
It is of no avail to adduce against his thesis what Gregory, 
or Bernard, or Francis, or any Pope has taught. Nor does 
it invalidate his contention to appeal to the authority of 
the Church itself, or quote Augustine that he would not 
have believed the Gospel but for its authority. Augustine 
in other passages ascribed the supreme authority to Scripture 
alone, and to assume that he ascribed an equal authority 
to the Church is to misinterpret his words. In any case, 
Augustine, who frequently erred, has no monopoly of 
infallibility. Christ is the supreme doctor of the Church. 
" Neither be ye called masters, for one is your Master, even 
Christ." The relative sayings of Christ are supported by 

65 Enders, hi. 316. 

66 Von Menschenlehre zu meiden, "Werke," x., Pt. II., 72 f. 
He was busy writing it on the 24th May 1522, as he informed Spalatin, 
and promised to send him the MS. next day, Enders, iii. 369. It was 
printed by the end of the month, ibid., iii. 383. He later added a supple- 
ment, " Antwort auf Spruche," apparently after writing his work against 
Henry VIII. See " Werke," x., Pt. II., 61-62. 

120 Luther and the Reformation 

numerous passages from Paul's Epistles. The points par- 
ticularly dealt with refer to fasting, abstinence from meat 
and drink on certain days, the monastic conception of the 
Christian life, and penitential works as a means of attaining 
salvation. All this ecclesiastical accretion is an unwarrant- 
able and unscriptural invention which has translated the 
Gospel into a burdensome legalism, oppressive to the 
conscience and subversive of Christian liberty. Moreover, 
it substitutes for the Gospel the old system of work righteous- 
ness which the Gospel displaced, and for which the Gospel 
substituted salvation by reliance on God's grace through 
faith, not on human merits, which cannot bring the assurance 
of salvation. It is because this oppressive and unwarranted 
system is a mere human invention and is incompatible with 
the original teaching of Christ and the Apostles that he 
rejects it, though he is prepared to admit additions of man 
that are not contrary to the Gospel. 

He followed it up with the philippic " Against the Falsely 
Called Spiritual Estate of the Pope and the Bishops." 57 It 
seems to have been written under the irritation produced 
by the perusal of Henry VIII. 's book against him. It is a 
furious blast of denunciation and defiance, the most choleric 
and violent that had yet come from his pen. Since the 
hierarchy has paid no heed to his repeated appeals for 
reform, has, indeed, done its worst to destroy him and 
his cause, he proclaims at the outset war to a finish against 
it. He has wasted forbearance and humility on these 
murderers and blasphemers. After his experience of 
them at Worms and elsewhere, he will never again recognise 
their jurisdiction or submit to their judgment. Compromise 
or quarter is henceforth out of the question. They shall 

87 Wider den falsch genannten Geistlichen Stand des Papsts und der 
Bischofe, "Werke," x. f Pt. II., 105 f. This is, as the editors have 
pointed out, a revision and an enlargement of the tract which he had 
written against the Archbishop of Maintz and the indulgence at Halle, 
but which he refrained from publishing at the instance of Spalatin. 
He now (July 1522) changed it into a philippic against the Pope and the 
bishops in general, and in spite of Spalatin's remonstrances (Enders, 
iii. 435) sent it to the press immediately after. He was already working 
at it in the beginning of July. Enders, iii. 426. 

Renewed Polemic from Wittenberg 121 

never have peace as long as he lives. Even if they kill him, 
they shall much less have peace, for in the words of Hosea, 
he will be to them a bear in the way and a lion in their path. 
He is aggressively dogmatic as well as defiant. No one who 
refuses to accept his teaching can be saved. It is God's, 
not his. 58 His method of attack is to expose their iniquities 
in the light of Scripture and the actual state of things. He 
had a strong case from both points of view. As a body, 
the hierarchy was very unlike the New Testament ministry 
and it was undeniably corrupt. It was largely a refuge, 
a career for the sons of princes and nobles, and Luther 
characteristically and repeatedly uses the phrase, " Ecclesi- 
astical Junkers." Its members were feudal magnates as 
well as churchmen and exercised the rights and privileges 
of such. They were a secularised caste, participating in 
worldly pursuits and pleasures, living in state and luxury, 
and in too many cases tainted with the vices of the age, 
in spite of their profession of celibacy and the pretence 
of exercising a purely spiritual function. Luther recognises 
that there were some worthy men among them who would 
fain reform the Church and took their spiritual duties 
seriously. But as a class he represents them as a worldly 
minded and oppressive set of hirelings who merely wear the 
mask (larva) of bishops. They are usurpers, not true bishops 
of the New Testament type. He has no difficulty in bringing 
out the contrast between this secularised, feudalised episco- 
pate and the Christian ministry of early times. He quotes 
passages from Paul's Epistles, the Acts of the Apostles, and 
other sources which delineate the early ministry, and bids 
them look at themselves in this mirror. He can see no 
vestige of a likeness between the two, and exhausts his rich 
vocabulary of expletives in damning them as murderers 
of souls and ministers of Satan. In as far as he confines 
himself to the New Testament passages relative to the 
ministerial office, he makes out a strong case for his conten- 
tion. But he spoils it, for the modern reader at least, by 
the violence and virulence of his language, though one 
must not forget that he is confronting men who were in too 

s* " Werke," x., Pt. II., 105-107. 

122 Luther and the Reformation 

many cases gravely unworthy of their profession and who 
were only too eager to send him to the stake. Moreover, 
he devotes too many pages to quoting and labouring irrelevant 
passages from Paul and 2 Peter, in which they are made to 
testify against the Roman hierarchy of his own time. He 
would have been more effective if he had confined himself 
to the actual facts of the case, instead of burdening the reader 
with these arbitrary divagations on irrelevant texts. He 
certainly shocks the taste of the modern reader by the 
grossness of the language in which, in reference to the evil 
effects of celibacy, he speaks of the operation of physiological 
laws in matters of sex. Even though it is perfectly evident 
that he does so from moral motives and that this freedom 
of speech was a characteristic of his time, it does show a 
lack of the sense of fitness to transfer this popular liberty 
of expression to the printed page. 

He undoubtedly tends, too, to consider the case in the 
light of his own dogmatic convictions on faith and works 
which the bishops have refused to accept, and which they 
persist, at the Pope's behest, in spurning as heresy. They 
must, therefore, perforce be enemies of God, wolves in sheep's 
clothing. Under the influence of this theological obsession, 
there is in the philippic a lack of reasoned restraint and a 
tendency to exaggerate the evils he condemns, as when he 
says that all religious foundations in which the inmates strive 
to attain salvation by monastic works are much worse than 
houses of prostitution and murder dens. 59 He is thus apt to 
paint the picture all black under the influence of his theo- 
logical prepossessions, and generalise a priori without duly 
examining the facts in order to substantiate his conclusions. 
But, then, Luther is no historian, but a religious reformer 
with an extraordinary gift of explosive language, writing 
under strong provocation and bent on the overthrow of a 
regime which he regards as both unchristian and anti- 
Christian. The philippic was a fiery cross summoning to 
the death struggle with the Antichrist in Germany as well 
as at Rome. At the same time, it is no mere case of swearing 
at large, though he is too apt to rave and revile. He assumes 

5 "Werke,"x., Pt. II., 148. 

Renewed Polemic from Wittenberg 123 

that the facts are so notorious that it is superfluous to 
particularise. They are, he repeatedly says, common 
knowledge, too well known to need proof, and may be left 
to speak for themselves. What he does is to drive them 
home and to found on them a demand for a trenchant 
reformation at the hands of the people. Away with the 
ungodly brood of usurpers of Christ's spiritual kingdom, 
is his slogan. It is more than time that this sham, and the 
scandal of this make-believe Christianity, which seeks to 
combine God and the devil, were swept away. He clamantly 
demands an uprising against them as tyrants and soul 
murderers who live on the sweat and toil of the people, and 
who, whilst enforcing celibacy, license concubines and prosti- 
tution at so much per head, are generally a disgrace to 
their profession, and, in their pursuit of power and gear, 
deem it beneath them to preach the Gospel and study the 
Bible. Not that the people shall hurl them down from their 
usurped seats by force and the sword. They are simply to 
renounce their jurisdiction, withdraw their obedience, and 
their regime will fall of itself. To this end he assumes the 
function of Pope and sends forth his own Bull of 
Reformation. 60 In this Bull he would abolish the hierarchy 
root and branch and substitute for it the bishops or presbyters 
of the local Christian community in the New Testament 
Church. Each congregation should have one or more pastors 
or overseers, who preach the Word and tend the flock. 
Even Irenseus, Cyprian, Ambrose, Augustine were bishops 
of a single city, not feudal lords of large ecclesiastical 
dioceses. " Let this be Doctor Luther's Bull, which gives 
God's grace as a reward to all who hold and follow it. 

On the heels of this bellicose effusion came the equally 
drastic reply to Henry VIII/s "Defence of the Seven 
Sacraments against Martin Luther/' 62 King Henry had 
some learning, could write Latin that evoked the praise of 

" Werke," x., Pt. II., 148 f. 

81 Ibid., x., Pt. II., 144- 

62 " Assertio Septem Sacramentorum adversus Martinum Lutherum," 
1521. I have used the edition of 1523. There is an English translation 
by T. W., 1687. 

124 Luther and the Reformation 

Erasmus, and was the patron of liberal studies. With this 
culture he at this period combined a conservative adhesion 
to the mediaeval faith and the Church as constituted under 
its papal head, for he had not yet developed into the ruthless 
antagonist of the Papacy, the most aggressive champion of 
national independence of Rome. On the appearance of the 
" Babylonic Captivity" in England in 1521, he threw him- 
self into the breach in defence of the papal authority and the 
Seven Sacraments. He had, in fact, been meditating an 
attack on the arch-heretic a couple of years before the 
publication of the " Captivity " in I52O, 63 and his perusal 
of it sent him at once to his desk to carry out his purpose. 
It was printed in July 1521, with a dedication to the Pope, 
and copies were forwarded to John Clerk, his representative 
at Rome, for presentation to Leo X. This Clerk did on the 
2nd October in an oration loaded with abuse of Luther. 
The Pope expressed his admiration in the most flattering 
terms, and as a reward conferred on the royal author the title 
of Defender of the Faith. On its merits it by no means 
deserved this special distinction. It shows considerable 
dialectic ability, and some familiarity with the stock argu- 
ments of the theologians in defence of the teaching of the 
Church, culled from the theological textbooks. It discovers 
some weak points in Luther's armour. But it does little 
more than reiterate the argument that the Church and the 
Fathers have held such and such a doctrine, and that what 
they have believed and maintained is true, and is, therefore, 
obligatory on all. Though expressing a wish that Luther 
may repent and return to the fold, it hopes that he may 
yet be burned if he persists in his errors. Its tone is 
vituperative and contemptuous Luther is inspired by the 
devil, a hideous monster, an incurably scabbed sheep, a 
man of corrupt and putrid heart, a hissing serpent. He 
makes faith nothing but the cloak of a wicked life, and so 
forth. We may take as a sample of Henry's estimate of 
him the turgid sentence in which, towards the conclusion, 
he sums up his feelings. " Alas, the worst wolf of hell has 
surprised him, devoured and gulphed him down into the 

" Brewer, " Reign of Henry VIII.," i. 601. 

Renewed Polemic from Wittenberg 125 

lowest part of his belly where, half alive and dying in death, 
he belches forth out of the filthy mouth of that hellish wolf 
those vile barkings against the chief pastor who has called 
him back and deplored his perdition, which the ears of the 
whole flock detest, abominate, and abhor." To the reader 
there is a certain humour, in view of his own subsequent 
attitude towards the Pope, in King Henry's complaint that 
Luther, having first ascribed a certain power to the Pope, 
afterwards denies it, and thus contradicts himself. 

Luther, who first mentions the royal effusion in a letter 
to Lang on the 26th June 1522, might well have afforded to 
ignore it on its own merits. To judge from the tone of his 
reference to it, he does not at first seem to have taken the 
matter seriously. But the prestige of the writer, the pub- 
licity which the dedication and presentation to the Pope 
conferred on it, its widespread perusal seemed to demand 
a reply. Moreover, he saw in it a covert attempt on the part 
of his enemies to discredit him and his teaching, and errone- 
ously ascribes its real authorship to Edward Lee, Henry's 
chaplain and future Archbishop of York. 64 The appearance 
of a German translation by Emser in the summer of 1522 
finally decided him to set to work on a reply in the vernacular, 
which appeared in the beginning of August, and one in 
Latin, which he published in September. 65 In answer to 
the charge of inconsistency and self-contradiction, he main- 
tains that his fundamental teaching on faith and works, etc., 
has been the same throughout, and appeals to his published 
works in support of his contention. In regard to the papal 
power and ecclesiastical institutions, he admits that his views 
have undergone development in the course of controversy. He 
has only gradually discovered the falsehood of the whole papal 
and ecclesiastical system in the light of the closer study of 
Scripture, to which the conflict with his opponents has led 

84 Enders, iii. 403, 426, and in the introduction to his reply. 

s Antwort Deutsch auf Konnig Heinrich's Buch ; Contra Henricum 
Regem Angliae, " Werke," x., Pt. II., 180 f. t and see editorial introduc- 
tion, 175 f. The Latin work is dedicated to Count Schlick, an ardent 
adherent of the evangelical movement on the border of Bohemia. The 
contents of both are pretty much alike, though the latter is not a mere 
version of the former. 

126 Luther and the Reformation 

him. For this reason he is ready to admit that his earlier 
works contain admissions and concessions which he has 
since been led to condemn and revoke. 66 But to change one's 
opinion in the light of further knowledge does not fairly 
lay one open to the charge of self-contradiction unless, 
having changed an opinion, one refuses to acknowledge the 
change and persists in maintaining it. 

King Hemy's defence of the papal power and the 
sacraments, he rightly points out, rests merely on the 
reiterated assumption that what has been asserted and 
believed by the doctors of the Church is bound to be true 
and must, therefore, be accepted by all. He quotes in 
reply the proverb, " Whatever has been wrong for a hundred 
years was never right for one year/' and retorts that, on 
this principle, the Turks and the Jews could argue with 
equal or greater force in proof of the truth of their religion. 
Nay, if age guarantees a belief or a practice, the devil him- 
self would have the best right on earth, since he is over 
5,000 years old ! The Fathers themselves have erred, and 
even if they had not, they had no power to impose new articles 
of faith. King Henry labours under the delusion that it is 
sufficient to quote a passage from Ambrose or Augustine 
or Aquinas to make a doctrine an article of faith. The 
Scripture alone is the supreme, the exclusive authority on 
such matters, and he reiterates his claim that since his 
teaching is founded on this supreme authority, ajtid not on 
mere human opinion, it is God's, not his, even if a thousand 
Augustines and a thousand King Henrys maintain the con- 
trary. In defending the traditional doctrine of the sacra- 
ments, he has merely dished up the teaching of Aquinas on 
transubstantiation, etc., at second hand, on the pretence 
that it is the teaching of Christ and Paul. " You papists," 
he defiantly concludes, "shall never accomplish your purpose, 
do what you will. The Gospel which I, Martin Luther, 
preach, shall prevail over Pope, bishop, parson, monks, 
kings, princes, devil, death, and all that is not Christ and 
in Christ. Against it nothing shall avail." 67 

" Werke," x., Pt. II., 229-233. 
</., x.,Pt.IL, 262. 

Renewed Polemic from Wittenberg 127 

In thus rebutting in detail the royal attack, Luther shows 
his superiority in dialectic skill, theological learning, and 
passionate conviction. He rallies and ridicules his antagonist 
with a supreme command of sarcasm and humour. Un- 
fortunately he was unable to withstand the temptation to 
cover him with abuse as well. He had received no little 
provocation to call names. King Henry, he complains, 
has applied to him more insulting terms than he himself 
had used of his opponents in all his books put together, 
and in his wrath he pays him back with compound interest. 
He is not only a theological charlatan and a servile flatterer 
of the Pope. In wilfully misrepresenting his teaching, he is 
a liar, and what is worse, he makes God and His Word liars. 
He is an unmitigated fool, and has amply proved the truth 
of the proverb, that there are no greater fools than kings and 
princes. He must have been drunk or dreaming when he 
wrote such rubbish. But then what else can be expected 
when an ass takes to reading the Psalter. It is not surprising 
that he should take to defending the usurpation of the 
Papacy, that Babylonian whore, seeing that he himself owes 
his crown to murder and tyranny, and imagines that he can 
silence Luther by scolding like a foul-mouthed harlot. 

Unfortunately, Luther, in this choleric mood, was unable 
to see that he was doing his cause little service by imitating 
and even outdoing the King in the use of scurrilous language, 
and that he would have done better had he adopted a more 
dignified tone and stopped short at raillery and ridicule. 
In this mood he cares not a straw whether his opponent 
wears a doctor's cap or a king's crown. A fool is for him a 
fool, whether he sits in a professor's chair, or even that of 
St Peter, or on the throne of England, or the ducal throne 
of Saxony at Dresden. He is only the more obnoxious as 
the figurehead of the great pack of fools who cannot see 
the truth beyond the mountain of lies and shams which they 
have heaped in front of it. On his own confession many, 
even of his friends, were aghast at his violence. 68 To one of 
those who desired an explanation, he replied (forgetting that 
he himself was very provocative at times) that he had had more 

88 Enders, iv. I, 27. 

128 Luther and the Reformation 

than enough of these personal and libellous attacks, and that 
he was determined henceforth not to mince words with these 
slanderers and liars. Christ and the Apostles were not 
always mild, and it is high time to shut the mouths of these 
Pharisees who only revile the more the more gently they 
are treated. 68 On his side King Henry, also forgetting his 
own offences against decent controversy, complained in 
letters to the Elector, his brother, and Duke George of the 
scurrilities of the unconscionable monk. The Elector 
regretted the cause of his chagrin, but, as usual, professed 
his inability to intervene, and referred him to a future 
Council. Duke George was more accommodating, and 
brought the matter to the notice of the Imperial Regency, 
whilst, besides Emser, Murner, Dietenberger, and Cochlaeus 
in Germany, Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, and Sir Thomas 
More in England, came to the rescue with counterblasts 
in the same unparliamentary style. 70 

Whilst Luther seems to have paid no attention to these 
effusions, Cochlaeus (Johann Dobneck) succeeded in drawing 
him into a skirmish in defence of his doctrine of justification, 
which he had rudely attacked in a work on " Sacramental 
Grace/' published towards the end of 1522. The work was 
forwarded to Luther by his friend, the Frankfurt humanist, 
W. Nesen. Like Eck, Cochlaeus, who was incumbent of 
St Mary's at Frankfurt, was eager to distinguish himself 
as the champion of orthodoxy with an eye to certain coveted 
benefices. As a humanist he had at first been disposed to 
favour the Lutheran cause, but had veered round to the 
opposite camp and, as we have noted, had sought to make a 
reputation at the Diet of Worms as the abettor of Aleander's 
policy. 71 To this end he had challenged Luther to a disputa- 

* " Werke," 53, i49-*5i (Erlangen ed.). 

70 The anonymous effusion, professing to be written by W. Rosse, is 
included in More's works, though More's authorship has been questioned 
on what Mr Brewer thinks insufficient grounds. " Reign of Henry 
VIII.," 608-609. 

71 In his " Commentaria de Actis et Scriptis Mart. Lutheri," 39 
(1549), he says that he went to Worms out of pure zeal for the faith. 
He was, however, regarded by Luther and his friends as a scheming 
busybody and self-seeker, and their judgment seems not to have been 

Renewed Polemic from Wittenberg 129 

tion on the absurd condition that he should first renounce 
his safe conduct, and he now boasted that Luther had 
declined his challenge. It was this boast that drew from the 
Reformer a reply in the form of an open letter to Nesen, 
which appeared in February 1523. 72 In this spirited philippic 
he ridicules the would-be victor who had succeeded only in 
making a laughing-stock of himself at Worms, and, glancing 
at the Latinised name Cochlaeus, asks how a poor snail, 
which draws in its horns at the slightest danger, could ever 
think of such a thing as a disputation. He then proceeds 
to vindicate his doctrine of justification by faith alone for 
the benefit of those whom Cochlaeus tries to mislead. He 
treats him as a type of those sophistic theologians who do 
not understand Paul and, while making use of the Apostolic 
language, wrest and misinterpret it in accordance with their 
own assumptions and vicious dialectic. In his impatience 
with " these blockheads/' he is unable to keep himself within 
the limit of ridicule, and breaks into vituperation and 
contemptuous invective. Cochlaeus retorted in similar 
fashion 78 within a few weeks in a violent diatribe to which 
Luther deigned no response. Henceforth he became one 
of his most pertinacious adversaries, and ultimately in 1549 
took his revenge in a history of Luther and his movement 
which contained calumny as well as misrepresentation, and 
became a quarry for his Roman Catholic detractors to 
excavate from that day to this. 74 

Luther's attack on celibacy inevitably provoked a counter- 
attack, and involved him in controversy over this burning 
question. The Franciscan, Caspar Sasger, or Schatzgeyer, 
set the ball a-rolling with a " Reply," which appeared in 
the autumn of 1522, and in which he ascribed the " De 
Votis Monasticis " to the inspiration of Satan. It also 
affords him clear proof that its author was bent on ridding 
himself of the obligation of chastity which he was unable 

72 Adversus armatum virum Cochleum, " Werke," xi. 295 f. 

78 " Adversus Cucullatum Minotaurum Wittenbergensem," ed. by 
I. Schweizer, " Corpus Catholicorum," iii. (1920). 

74 " Commentaria " ; see also Kolde, "Cochlaeus/* in Herzog- 
Hauck, "Encylopidie"; Kohler, "Das Katholische Lutherbild der 
Gegenwart" (1922). 

130 Luther and the Reformation 

to observe. 76 Luther was too busy at the time 76 to refute 
these assumptions which the good monk's brethren ascribed 
to the Holy Spirit, and contented himself with submitting 
the book to his friend and disciple, John Brissmann, another 
Franciscan, who had taken his doctor's degree at Wittenberg 
some months previously, and whose " Responsa " appeared 
in March 1523. He merely added an epistle by way of 
preface, 77 in which he controverted Sasger's contention that 
what is not contrary to Scripture is in accord with Scripture, 
and that, therefore, monasticism is scriptural. 78 Nor did he 
deem it worth while to reply to the ponderous effusion which 
John Schmidt or Faber,ihe vicar of the Bishop of Constance, 
published at Rome in August 1522, and which Duke George 
of Saxony reprinted at Leipzig in April 1523. Whilst Faber's 
work was a general attack on Luther's teaching, it contained 
a defence of priestly celibacy. 79 Tn this case he deputed the 
task of answering for him to Justus Jonas on the ground 
that, being recently married, he was more concerned and 
better fitted to justify the blessings of priestly matrimony 
than he. As for this tiresome compiler of quotations from 
the Fathers and Councils, he had written nothing that he 
had not already confuted. 80 With this contemptuous preface 
Faber, who was eager to gain the fame of a reply from Luther 
himself, had to be content, and Jonas did not fail to remind 
him of his personal responsibility as episcopal vicar of 
Constance for the scandal of priestly concubinage in the 
diocese. 81 The reminder was certainly anything but flatter- 
ing to his self-esteem or gratifying to his keen desire to acquire 
notoriety at Luther's expense. 

75 " Werke," viii. 567. On Schatzgeyer, who had shortly before 
entered the arena against the Lutherans in a comparatively moderate 
work, " Scrutinium Divinse Scripturse," ed. by Schmidt, see " Corpus 
Catholicorum," v. (1922). 

" Enders, iv. 105. Ego occupatior sim quam ut ipse respondeam. 

" Ibid., iv. 104 f. ; " Werke," xi. 284 f. 

" Werke," xi. 286-287. Sasger duly replied with an " Examen " 
of Brissmann's work, to which neither he nor Luther seems to have 
paid any attention. Of the polemics of the Dominican Dietenberger 
and the Sorbonne doctor Clichthoven he took no notice. Both works 
appeared in 1524. " Werke," viii. 568-569. 

7 Ibid., xii. 82. Ibid., xii. 85. Ibid., xii. 83. 

Renewed Polemic from Wittenberg 131 

Luther himself, however, could not escape the task of 
dealing with the question, which had a social as well as a 
religious aspect, and was exciting a widespread practical 
interest. His work on " Monastic Vows " had given an 
impulse to the emancipation movement which, in the words 
of Justus Jonas, was depopulating so many monasteries. 
Requests for help and guidance poured in from monks and 
nuns who, from conscientious scruples or other motives, 
were bent on freeing themselves from the monastic yoke. 
The baneful practice of destining children of both sexes to 
the religious life particularly on the part of parents of 
the higher classes as a means of subsistence, apart from any 
religious vocation or inclination for the celibate state, tended 
to sap the morals of many of the members of the monastic 
Orders. Moreover, the evangelical movement had gained 
not a few adherents in the monasteries, though Luther was 
fain to confess that religious considerations were by no 
means the exclusive factor in producing an increasing 
alienation from the monastic system. In the face of the 
growing revolt against it, he was erelong brought up against 
the necessity of taking active steps to assist its victims to 
regain their freedom, especially in the case of nuns whose 
parents or relatives hesitated or declined to intervene in 
response to their appeals. It was on this ground that he 
felt bound to protect a number of nuns whom, at his 
instigation, Leonard Koppe of Torgau and two accomplices 
had succeeded in withdrawing from the convent at 
Nimbschen, near Grimma, in the beginning of April 1523. 
They were mostly members of noble families, and some of 
them, including the sister of Staupitz and Catherine von 
Bora, whose parents resided in the territory of Duke George 
and were, therefore, unwilling to run the risk of harbouring 
them, were conducted by Koppe to Wittenberg. In the 
circumstances Luther did not hesitate to give them a tem- 
porary asylum in the Wittenberg monastery until he could 
communicate with their relatives and provide for their 
future welfare. He wrote to Spalatin, begging the Elector's 
assistance for their provisional maintenance on the ground 
of the slender resources at his disposal. 82 It seemed a 

" Enders, iv. 126-128. 

132 Luther and the Reformation 

compromising as well as a daring defiance of public propriety 
thus to befriend a party of runaway nuns, and his action 
was certainly open to misapprehension, and, from the 
current ecclesiastical standpoint, animadversion. But he 
did not allow himself to be swayed by such considerations, 
and wrote a public letter to Koppe accepting responsibility 
for his action, 83 repelling the insinuation of dishonourable 
motives, and defending it as a justifiable deliverance from 
priestly tyranny and an example and encouragement to 
noble parents to free their children from this immoral and 
irreligious bondage. These young women have acted from 
conscientious motives in seeking deliverance from a condition 
into which they had entered without due consideration or 
voluntary choice, and after requesting their parents to 
release them. But the scandal of it ! " Scandal here, or 
scandal there/' retorts Luther, " necessity breaks iron and 
cares nothing for scandal." 84 

Nor was this example without due effect in encouraging 
the emancipation movement. Two months later sixteen 
nuns escaped from the convent at Widerstet, and five of 
them were taken under the protection of Count Albrecht 
of Mansfeld. To the Counts of Mansfeld he dedicated the 
story of another fugitive who had escaped from the convent 
of Neu Helfta at Eisleben. 86 In this document Florentina 
von Oberweimar tells how in her sixth year she was placed 
in the convent by her parents ; how at the age of eleven she 
was consecrated to the life of virginity without her consent 
and due knowledge ; how in her fourteenth year she dis- 
cerned her unfitness for this vocation and vainly represented 
to the abbess her desire for freedom ; how she was neverthe- 
less formally received into the Order as a professed nun by 
command of the abbess and against her will; how she 
became acquainted with Luther's evangelical teaching and 
wrote to him for instruction and counsel; how she was 
betrayed by some of her fellow-nuns and was subjected to 

" " Werke," xi. 394 f. Ursach und Antwort das jungfrauen Kloster 
gdttlich verlassen mogen, April 1523. 

** Ibid.* xi. 400. 

85 Ein Geschicht wie Gott einer Kloster jungfrau ausgeholfen hat, 
March 1524, " Werke," xv. 86 f. 

Renewed Polemic from Wittenberg 133 

a lengthy process of harsh treatment by the abbess, including, 
besides severe and humiliating penance, imprisonment in 
a cold cell ; how she communicated to her relative, Caspar 
von Watzdorf , her miserable condition, was again betrayed, 
cruelly beaten by the abbess and four other nuns, put in 
irons for twenty-four hours, and again imprisoned ; and 
how she managed to escape through the negligence of an 
attendant in leaving the door of her cell unlocked. " From 
this and many other cases," concludes Luther in the intro- 
ductory epistle, " the world can see what a devilish thing 
this monkery and nunnery is, in which they think to drive 
and compel people to God with harshness and blows. God 
will have no such enforced service/' 86 He calls on the 
Counts of Mansfeld and other princes to remember the saying, 
" No one cometh to me except the Father draw him," and to 
see that freedom is allowed and exercised in the monasteries 
within their territories. 

Whilst he treated the polemics of a Sasger and a Faber 
with contempt, he was compelled by such experiences to 
appeal to public opinion on the question. Hence the series 
of controversial tracts 87 in the vernacular on the married 
versus the celibate state, in which he deals very freely 
with the sex question. One is struck and sometimes 
shocked by the freedom with which he discusses this delicate 
theme. In his day people evidently spoke and even wrote on 
sexual matters with far less reserve or refinement than the 
cultured Christian of to-day is accustomed to observe, and 
Luther, writing in the common tongue, does not hesitate 
to enter into details which a modern reader, who dislikes 
vulgarity, would prefer to assume rather than describe. 
What appears to us gross or prurient does not seem to have 
been so regarded in the sixteenth century, though a writer 
of a more severe taste, like Calvin, would have shown a more 
delicate touch in dealing with matters of this kind. In 
Luther's case, at all events, the tone is drastically naive 

* " Werke," xv. 87* 

w Vom ehelichen Leben, 1522, " Werke," x., Pt. II., 275 f. ; Das 
Siebente Kapitel St Pauli zu den Corinthern ausgelegt, 1523, ibid , xii. 
92 f. ; Das Eltern die Kinder zur Ehe nicht zwingen noch hindern, 1524, 
ibid., xv. 163 f. 

134 Luther and the Reformation 

rather than intentionally coarse. At the same time, there 
was in him a vulgar grain which is rather unpleasantly 
reflected in his style, especially in the more violent and 
popular of his controversial works. It does grate at times 
on a delicate ear, and he himself is fain to apologise for 
inflicting these details on the reader. He would rather have 
left the subject alone if the exigencies of the time had not 
forced him to grapple with it. He condemns, too, the 
flippant and sensual spirit in which the sexual question is 
treated in certain humanist circles, which denounce marriage 
as a conventional tyranny and shamelessly advocate free 
love. But he cannot evade the necessity of exposing the 
evils of a system which he regards as both false in itself and 
detrimental to morality and religion. The low conception 
of marriage as incompatible with the perfection of the 
religious life, from which clerical celibacy sprang and which 
it tended to foster, is to some extent reflected in his own 
rather one-sided view of it as a necessity of the flesh, though 
he does not fail to emphasise the married state as a high 
vocation in reaction both from the sensualist writers of the 
time and from the false, unchristian, and unnatural asceticism 
imposed by the Church on the clergy. His object is, in 
fact, to raise the standard of social morality and ensure pure 
Christian living against both these tendencies, which he 
regards as alike false and reprehensible on moral and 
religious grounds. At the same time, he is apt to dwell too 
much on the animal side of human nature, to overlook at 
times or relegate to the background the more spiritual 
aspect of wedlock in the union of two souls from other motives 
than the gratification of the sensual instinct, of human 
love as the expression of the finer emotions which may and 
do have their part in this relation. In a word, in his 
revulsion from and conflict with the unhealthy and un- 
natural elements in the celibate system, he allows his 
naturalism at times to blur his vision of the nobler side of 
manhood and womanhood. 

For him marriage is the law of God which is reflected 
in the natural impulse to the cohabitation of man and 
woman. It is a physical necessity in virtue of the constitu- 
tion of the human body by the Creator. Every human being 

Renewed Polemic from Wittenberg 135 

is by divine ordinance subject to this law, and to ignore it is 
pure foolery, which is bound to result in sins of the flesh. 88 
No vow is valid against this law of Nature, which is also 
the law of God. " Increase and multiply " is the divine 
fiat, and the attempt to counteract this divinely implanted 
impulse inevitably leads to fornication. There are, indeed, 
exceptions to this law, as Christ has pointed out (Matt. xix. 
12). Impotence, for instance, in which case he would allow 
the married woman to seek satisfaction by agreement with 
her husband, though in case of common bodily infirmity 
both parties are patiently and dutifully to bear the cross. 
There are also exceptional cases in which by the special 
gift of God the body is so constituted that a man or woman 
may feel no inclination for marriage and may freely devote 
themselves to a purely spiritual life, as Paul commands 
(i Cor. vii.). But these exceptions are few and they do not 
warrant the segregation of men and women, without due 
consideration of this fact, in monasteries and convents under 
a man-made and artificial obligation to observe the celibate 
state, which militates against the divinely ordained law of 
human nature. Though he inclines at times to over- 
emphasise the sexual side of marriage as a physiological 
necessity to the obscuring of the more ideal aspect of it, 
the married state is not to be conceived as incompatible 
with the higher spiritual life, and it is false to assume with 
St Jerome that the celibate state is superior to the married 
state in God's sight. 89 While as a monk he himself is to a 
certain extent influenced by the traditional monastic concep- 
tion of the married state as a means of carnal gratification, 
he would evidently have taken the side of Jovinian in his 
opposition to this conception, as championed by Jerome and 
his fellow-monks in the fourth century. As ordained by 
God, it is a high as well as a legitimate and natural vocation 
to be fulfilled in a Christian spirit, and not to be spurned 
because of its conjugal obligations and its cares and trials, 
or in preference for licentious living and unnatural lust, 
as described by Paul in the first chapter of Romans and 

Vom ehelichen Leben, " Werke," x., Pt. II., 276-277. 
" Werke," xii. 99. 

136 Luther and the Reformation 

vaunted by the apostles of free love. God has ordained and 
sanctified these natural functions, though the sexual im- 
pulse is not exercised without sin, in virtue of the fall. He 
has not created woman to be the slave of man's lust. Both 
husband and wife are to carry into and exercise in the 
maiiied state the spirit of service and obedience to God. 
Following Paul, he insists on the necessity of self-control 
and abstinence in the interest of the spiritual life, though he 
objects to formal ecclesiastical regulation in such a matter. 90 
In begetting children, rearing them in the fear of God, and 
training them in the Gospel, they are performing the highest 
service. They are the true bishops and apostles of their 
children. There is no greater, nobler power on earth than 
that in the hands of parents. 91 In fulfilling this vocation 
they are exemplifying the more ideal side of the marriage 
relation which the monastic conception ignores and rejects 
in the interest of a false, unchristian, impossible, and 
essentially hypocritical celibacy. It is, moreover, the only, 
the indispensable safeguard from fornication, impurity, 
which celibacy cannot guarantee. In its evil effects in this 
respect the practice of the celibate life is, in fact, the strongest 
argument for the necessity and the moral efficacy of marriage, 
It practically imposes the licensing of concubinage and 
frustrates its professed object, " for there is no more unchaste 
class than those professing chastity, as daily experience 
teaches/' tt It is a silly and futile device which causes 
terrible misery of conscience among the clergy. 93 Without 
a pure heart there can be no chastity. It is, too, utterly 
reprehensible in as far as it is embraced merely as a refuge 
from the duties and cares of married life. There is far 
more spiritual benefit to be derived from the discipline 
which gives scope for the exercise of faith and self-denial, 
than from the immunity from the battle and burden of 
common life which celibacy ensures. It is, in fact, in his 
eyes a fundamental objection to it that it tends to displace 
faith and foster religious formalism, belief in works, though 
it is not necessarily incompatible with the life of faith. 94 

Werke," xii. 103. M /^ xiL ^ 

91 Ibid., x., Pt. II., 301. " Ibid., xii. 107-108. 

fi Ibid., xii. 93, 109, 112. 

Renewed Polemic from Wittenberg 137 

Moreover, on purely economic grounds, the married is vastly 
superior to the unmarried state. The father of a family 
must toil for his livelihood and contribute his share to the 
common benefit. The celibate lives in and for himself. 
" He is a lazy rascal who shuns work and lives on the labour 
of others." 95 

At the same time, while emphasising the necessity of 
marriage as the indispensable safeguard against fornication, 
he would, like Paul, leave all free to marry or not, and 
commends the unmarried state where the gift of chastity 
exists. He would, further, reform the common law relative 
to the degree of relationship within which marriage is in- 
admissible, since it forbids what Scripture allows and its 
provisions can be easily overridden for a money payment. 96 
He would allow marriage with non-Christians, i.e., Jews and 
Turks, in accordance with the declaration of Paul and 
Peter, who recognised the union of a Christian man or 
woman with a heathen as valid. In the case of the refusal 
of cohabitation by the wife, he holds that the husband 
is justified in repudiating the wife and taking another, and 
vice versa, and he would sanction separation on the ground 
of incompatibility of temper, but without subsequent 
marriage, 97 He favours early marriage as the surest means 
of preventing youthful excess, and would limit the power of 
parents to force children to marry at their behest and will, 
and thus dimmish the danger of unhappy unions. 98 

M " Werke," xii. 108. 7 Ibid., x, } Pt. II., 290-291. 

B Ibid., x., Pt. IL, 280 f. 8 Ibid., xv. 163 f. 



LUTHER'S literary activity as the champion of an evangelical 
Reformation during the three years, 1521-24, had made 
a powerful impression in Germany. The long series of 
controversial tracts or treatises in Latin and German is apt 
to surfeit the modern reader who plods through them in 
search of the distinctive ideas which he enunciated or 
reiterated during this period in defiance of the imperial ban, 
the counter-attacks and calumnies of embittered opponents, 
new and old, and the head-shaking of hesitating or wondering 
sympathisers. But these successive attacks on conventional 
ideas and institutions had a power of appeal which to that 
age was elemental. Luther's study at the Wartburg and 
at Wittenberg is the centre of a spiritual cataclysm that 
shatters the old, in the effort to create a new order. One 
after another old beliefs, usages, laws, which have been 
the religious palladium of centuries, crash under the blows 
of this terrible iconoclast. His only weapon is the spoken, 
written, and printed word, the pulpit and the press, the 
sermon, the epistle, the treatise, the pamphlet. A voice 
and a pen this is all. But there is more power in this 
voice and this pen to shake and mould the world than in 
all the Bulls of a pope or the armed strength of emperor and 
kings. What Luther speais or prints is far more potent for 
millions within and even without his native Germany than 
papal Bull or imperial Edict, backed as they are by the 
prestige of the Roman See and the material power of 
the Holy Roman Empire. The testimony of Valdes, the 
Emperor's secretary, is conclusive on this point. " I see 


The Spread of the Movement 139 

that the minds of the Germans are generally exasperated 
against the Roman See, and they do not seem to attach great 
importance to the Emperor's edicts, for since their publica- 
tion Lutheran books are sold with impunity at every step 
and corner of the streets and in the market-places/' * His 
writings were as eagerly awaited and as widely circulated 
as the most popular novel of our day. First editions were 
exhausted as soon as they left the press, and were followed 
by others as fast as the printing presses could turn them 
out. 2 The business of printing them was so lucrative that 
they were reproduced without his permission, and he found 
it necessary to address to the printers a remonstrance against 
the unauthorised versions of them put in circulation. 3 He 
had created a public opinion which was insatiable in its 
demand for more and ever more of this theological pabulum, 
which may have for us at times only an antiquarian interest. 
Its bulk was swelled by the increasing contributions of 
his abettors in the press, which the Edict of Worms was 
equally impotent to prevent. The Edict was, in fact, 
followed by a notable increase of the very writings it was 
designed to suppress. Between the years 1518 and 1523 the 
output of theological controversial literature, to which 
Luther himself contributed the lion's share, was increased 
sevenfold, and Ranke hazards the estimate that four-fifths 
of it were on Luther's side. 4 It largely monopolised the 
German press, whilst Cochlaeus complains that anti-Lutheran 
writers could only with difficulty find a publisher for what the 
booksellers at the Frankfurt Fair and elsewhere derided 
as barbarous and trivial stuff. 5 Among the middle class 
in the Free Imperial Cities, in particular, these books found 
enthusiastic readers, while the democratic note of the " new 
Gospel " and its denunciation of Roman tyranny found a 

1 Quoted by Lindsay, " History of the Reformation," i. 299. 

* See the numerous editions of his works given in the bibliographical 
introductions in the Weimar edition of his " Werke." 

8 Enders, iv. 153, 269. 

* " Deutsche Geschichte im Zeitalter der Reformation,*' ii. 79-80. 
II. 62 of the new edition of the German Academy, 1925, by Marcks, 
Meinecke, and Her. Oncken. 

* " Commentaria," 58-59. 

140 Luther and the Reformation 

ready response on the part of the lower classes. 6 By dis- 
carding more and more the language of the learned for that 
of the common man, Luther and his collaborators widened 
the appeal of this Gospel to the masses. The great con- 
troversy thereby bursts the limits of the schools, within which 
it had at first been confined, and is carried into the cottage, 
the tavern, the market-place. Very significant in this 
respect is the appearance of the popular pamphlet written, 
mostly in dialogue form, in the vernacular for the common 
man. These publicists skilfully brought the Lutheran 
theology within the comprehension of the peasant who 
becomes a theologian, takes the side of Luther against his 
opponents, and puts the parson and the monk to the rout 
with quotations from the Bible and Dr Martin. The common 
man becomes keenly conscious alike of his own worth and 
the corruption and oppression of the Church, which fleeces 
him and keeps him in grinding poverty by its exactions for 
the benefit of a worthless, lazy, unscriptural set of parasites, 
who batten on the commonwealth. Among the most 
effective and widely circulated of these effusions were 
" Karsthans " (Jack Mattock), " Neukarsthans," " The Old 
God and the New/' and the numerous series of pamphlets 
issued by the ex-Franciscan, Eberlin von Giinzburg. 
" Kaisthans " was directed against Murner, who had himself 
indulged in this popular polemic against the evils rampant 
in the Church and society before he became one of the 
keenest of Luther's opponents. 7 On the ground of Scripture 
and in the interest of the commonweal, he will disestablish 
Pope and prelate, and will only recognise the lordship of 
Christ over the Church, proclaims Dr Luther's doctrine of 
the priesthood of believers, and finishes the discussion by 
calling for his flail wherewith to vent his wrath on Murner's 
detestable head. 

" Commentaria," 57-58. 

* It is given by Booking, " Hutteni Opera," iv. 620 f. On Murner 
see Kawerau, " Th. Murner und die Kirche des Mittelalters," and " Th. 
Murner und die Deutsche Reformation" (Niemeyer, Halle, 1890-1891). 
Burckhardt ascribes " Karsthans " to Joachim von Watt. " Flugschriften 
aus der Refonnationszeit," iv. i f. See also art., " Murner/' Herzog- 
Hauck, " Encyclopadie." 

The Spread of the Movement 141 

In " Neukarsthans," which appears to have emanated 
(September 1521) from Sickingen's circle (was the author 
Oecolampadius or Bucer ?), the doughty knight of the 
Ebernburg has turned a pious evangelical. 8 He spends the 
winter evenings with Hutten and other friends reading the 
Scriptures and Luther's works, and sets forth for the benefit 
of his peasant visitor the main points of Dr Martin's teaching, 
especially on its practical side. The supreme test of the 
true theology and the true Church is the New Testament, 
which Sickingen quotes profusely. The Church in its papal, 
hierarchical form is as like that of Christ and the Apostles 
as night is to day. Clergy and monks ought to be deprived 
of their ill-gotten and ill-used wealth. The hour of their 
undoing is about to strike. High time, bursts out Hans, 
to go for them with our flails and mattocks ! Sickingen 
counsels patience meanwhile, and says that it ought to be 
done justly in the interest of the truth, not out of envy and 
greed. Hans agrees, though he regrets that through their 
lying and deceit he has so long been ignorant of the truth. 
Now he will buy Luther's books and get some one to read 
them to hiniv The thing cannot last much longer, remarks 
Sickingen, since the common man has learned more from 
the New Testament and Dr Martin's writings than all the 
parsons who have preached and studied for ten or fifteen 
years. The New Testament is the great teacher of the 
common man, who is of Luther's opinion that the real 
heretics are the Pope, the theologians, and parsons who 
have twisted the Word of God to suit their own self-seeking. 
There never was a time when people were more eager to 
hear the preaching of the Gospel. The new Gospel age has 
dawned. The laity has realised its rights and means to 
enforce them against this oppressive regime of usurpers and 
hirelings who buy their livings from the Pope. " We are 
all the Church and no one more than another." 9 

Under the author's tuition Hans is, on the whole, self- 

8 It is given by Docking, " Hutt. Opera," iv. 651 f. W. Kohler 
concludes that the author was Hutten (" Zeitschrift fur Deutsche Philo- 
logie," 1898). Booking ascribes it to Oecolampadius. Kalkoff gives 
reasons for assigning it to Bucer (" Hutten und die Reformation," 537 f .) 

" Hutt. Opera," iv. 664. 

142 Luther and the Reformation 

restrained, though choleric. The impulse to go for the 
parson and the monk with his flail is kept in check in defer- 
ence, apparently, to Luther's " Exhortation against Revolt 
and Tumult." Eberlin is far less prudent and tolerant in 
the fiery appeal for a radical and violent Reformation which 
he voiced in a series of pamphlets in 1521 and the following 
year, though under the influence of Luther and Melanchthon 
he subsequently struck a more moderate note. 10 This radical 
tendency also found expression in the Thirty Articles, 
printed along with the " Neukarsthans," in which Junker 
Helfrich, Knight Harry, and Jack Mattock renounce the 
regime of Antichrist, devote themselves body and goods to 
bring about such a drastic Reformation, and swear undying 
hostility to all Dr Luther's enemies. 11 

Meanwhile the movement was spreading far and near 
in virtue of its inherent power. Luther himself, as we have 
noted, had no definite plan for the propagation of his teaching 
and the organisation of its adherents. Hitherto he had 
laboured to influence public opinion by means of the press, 
the lecture, the sermon, and a vast correspondence. He 
trusted to the power of the Word to establish a new order, 
and the Word was doubtless powerfully working towards this 
end. The publication, after revision with the assistance of 
Melanchthon, of his translation of the New Testament on 
the 2ist September I522, 12 was a factor of the first importance 
in hastening its realisation. But in spite of his professed 
reliance on the missionary power of the Word, the greatest 
force in the spread of the movement was the personality and 
the manifold activity of Luther himself. Though inferior 
to Calvin as an organiser, his correspondence 13 during this 

10 See the collection of his popular pamphlets edited by Enders 
in the ** Flugschriften," 1898, 1900, 1902. On Eberlin see the works of 
Reggenbach (1874), Radlkofer (1887), Julius Werner (1895), and the 
art. by Kolde in Herzog-Hauck. Also Bezold, " Geschichte der 
Deutschen Reformation," 357 f. 

11 Given by Bocking, " Opera Hutteni," iv. 680-681. These violent 
articles are ascribed by Kalkoffto the printer, Johann Schott of Strassburg. 
Hutten's " Vagantenzeit und Untergang," 310-311. 

11 Enders, iv. 4-5. 

18 See the latter part of VoL III. and the whole of Vols. IV. and V 

The Spread of the Movement 143 

formative period proves that he was by no means so in- 
different to the necessity of active, constructive effort as 
his profession of reliance on the Word alone seems to imply 
and his critics have often assumed. His activity as a 
propagandist was not confined to the controversial tract or 
treatise in which he maintained an incessant warfare against 
the enemy, or defended his position against the enemy's 
counter-attacks. He is ever immersed in the task of 
winning adherents, encouraging and guiding the efforts of a 
growing band of fellow-workers whom his teaching has 
inspired with an Apostolic fervour. He addresses missive 
after missive to individuals, to churches, to Town Councils, 
or other governing bodies. He takes the lead in constituting 
churches on an evangelical basis and instituting a reformed 
order of worship. He responds to constant appeals for help 
and advice and befriends the refugees from the monasteries 
or the ranks of the secular clergy who flock to Wittenberg, 
and for whom he strives to find maintenance and a vocation. 
He provides evangelical preachers for the churches that 
apply to him from far and near. He appeals to the civil 
authorities or to the Elector and other magnates on behalf 
of persecuted brethren, and writes letters of comfort and 
encouragement to the communities in Germany and the 
Netherlands which are suffering for the faith. Through 
Spalatin he constantly strives to influence the Elector to 
adopt a more energetic policy on behalf of the Gospel, 
whilst disclaiming any desire to compromise him in his cause 
with the Emperor and the Regency, He complains again 
and again that he is overwhelmed by his enormous cor- 
respondence in the effort to help and direct and encourage 
what has become a national and even an international 
movement. 14 

In addition to his own titanic activity, the movement 
owed much to the co-operation of his colleagues at Witten- 
berg and to the scholars and theologians who became its 
leaders in other universities and centres of enlightenment 
at Erfurt, Niirnberg, Basle, Strassburg, and elsewhere. 
Foremost among these collaborators stood Melanchthon 

14 See, for instance, Enders, iv. 304, 328, etc. 

144 Lather and the Reformation 

who conferred on it the prestige of his rare humanist scholar- 
ship and systematised in his " Loci Communes " (December 
1521) the fundamental doctrines and principles which 
Luther had enunciated and developed in his didactic and 
controversial writings in rather haphazard fashion. Based 
on his study of the Epistle to the Romans, on which he had 
lectured to his students during the session 1519-20, and 
divested of the conventional scholastic speculation, it 
conveyed to the theological student, and, in Spalatin's 
German translation, to the layman as well, a clear and 
succinct comprehension of the Gospel of God's grace according 
to Paul, and thus rendered a timely service to the Lutheran 
cause both as an exposition and a vindication of the new 
against the old theology. Its influence in furthering this 
cause was both profound and far-reaching. Within four 
years it passed through seventeen editions, besides several 
editions of Spalatin's translation. 15 

Equally potent was the influence of the students whom 
the fame of the Reformer had attracted to Wittenberg in 
increasing numbers during the previous half-dozen years. 
From Wittenberg went forth many an ardent young disciple 
to carry the Master's teaching over the length and breadth 
of the empire and to other lands as well. It had, too, 
gained many adherents among both the regular and secular 
clergy, and in these clerical recruits it found ready made a 
band of aggressive preachers. Very remarkable is the fact 
that a large proportion of them came from the monastic 
Orders. His doctrine of justification by faith found the 
readiest response among those who, like himself, had 
learned by experience to doubt the religious efficacy of the 
burdensome formalism of the monastic life. His own Order 
of the Augustinians furnished many enthusiastic recruits, 
such as Wencelaus Link, its Vicar-General, John Lang, the 
prior of the Erfurt monastery, Kaspar Giittel, prior of 
Eisleben, Gabriel Zwilling, its most popular preacher, the 
Netherlander, Jacob Probst, prior of Antwerp, and his 
successor, Heinrich Holier, otherwise known as Henry of 
Ztrtphea. From his own Order caine, too, the first martyrs 

15 For the origin and gradual shaping of the work, see EHinger, 
" Melanchthon," 123 f. (1902). 

The Spread of the Movement 145 

of the Gospel in two young monks, who, in the summer of 
1523, endured the flames for their evangelical convictions 
and whose heroism drew from Luther the first of his popular 
religious poems and an inspiring missive to the Christians 
of Holland, Flanders, and Brabant. 16 The other Orders also 
contributed not a few missionary recruits. From the 
Franciscans came Eberlin, Brissmann, Myconius, Pellican, 
and Kempe ; from the Dominicans, Bucer and Blarer ; 
from others, Oecolampadius, Urbanus Rhegius, Otto 
Braunfels, Frosch. Equally remarkable the number of 
recruits from the secular clergy who preached the new 
Gospel and, where the pulpits of the parish churches were 
denied them, took to preaching in the open air the church- 
yards or the market-places, under the protection, in some 
cases, of their armed parishioners. Laymen even took a 
part in this evangelistic work where the priests were hostile. 
" The Gospel," wrote Luther to Gerbel in May 1524, " takes 
its course ever farther and more widely, the more they try 
to prevent it." 17 

Unfortunately these clerical recruits were not always 
a credit or a benefit to the movement, and Luther at times 
was fain to confess that purely spiritual motives were far 
from being at the back of this secession from the old system. 
Too many of the emancipated monks " have given occasion 
to the adversary to blaspheme," through whom " Satan has 
cast an evil odour on the fragrance of our teaching," and 
who have embraced the Gospel " for the sake of the belly, 
the freedom of the flesh." 18 The same is true of too many 
of the nuns and the secular priests, and his testimony is 
confirmed by that of Eberlin, Johann Hess, and others. 
The transition from the cloister to evangelical freedom too 
often meant, as Erasmus said, " freedom to live as they 
please." Such converts were, as Grisar remarks, 19 only too 
worthy products of the system that had nurtured them. 
Some of those who became preachers were ignorant ranters 
who repeated parrot-like Luther's teaching on faith and 
works, and whose shallow vehemence was but the thin veil 
of their lack of real knowledge and real moral earnestness. 

" " Werke," xii. 73. 1S Ibid., iii. 323-324. 

17 Enders, iv. 334. 19 * f Luther," ii. 127-128. 

146 Luther and the Reformation 

Without a due sense of the limitations and obligations of 
freedom, which Luther as a rule emphasised, they were 
totally unfitted to be its true exponents. 

In contrast to this discreditable element stands the able 
and cultured band of preachers to whom the proclamation 
of the Gospel is a divinely imposed vocation and to whose 
activity, next to that of Luther and his immediate associates, 
the astounding progress of the movement during the years 
1521-24 was mainly due. As the result of this spontaneous 
and ever-widening missionary effort, it takes shape in the 
establishment of reformed congregations all over the empire, 
especially in the free cities of the south and the north. The 
process is everywhere more or less identical. The parish 
priest, an emancipated monk, an ardent layman, begins 
preaching the new Gospel and inveighs against the old 
doctrines and usages. The people usually welcome his 
message and become ardent partisans, in spite of the 
opposition of bishop and clergy. 20 This opposition excites 
the popular spirit which here and there breaks into tumult, 
as at Erfurt in 1521, Miltenberg in 1523, Augsburg in 1524, 
Stralsund in the same year. The popular restiveness 
necessitates the intervention of the civil authority, and this 
intervention, especially in the free cities, is usually on the 
side of the Reformers. The recurring friction between the 
civic and the ecclesiastical authorities, the hatred of a corrupt 
clergy, the keen impatience of ecclesiastical abuses which 
injuriously affect the material interest of the burghers, the 
influence (though only to a limited extent) of Hussite and 
Waldensian sectaries, 21 the spread of the new culture, of 
which Niirnberg and Augsburg were centres all these 
factors predisposed the cities to welcome the evangelical 
preachers. Hence the remarkable results of the preaching 

10 For this early preaching in the cities, see the relative notices in 
Luther's " Briefwechsel," in., iv., v. ; Ranke, " Deutsche Geschichte," 
ii. 65 f.; 1925 edition, ii. 51 f.; Bezold, " Geschichte der Deutschen 
Reformation," 381 f. ; Kostlin-Kawerau, i. 610 f. 

11 In the introduction to the Kirchenpostille of 1522, Luther refers to 
the existence of a Hussite congregation at Sangershausen, near Eisleben, 
by which, according to his enemies, he had been early corrupted 
" Werke," x., Pt. L, 6-7. * 

The Spread of the Movement 147 

of Zell, Bucer, and Capito at Strassburg, Blarer at Constance, 
Eberlin and Kettenbach at Ulm, Urbanus Rhegius and 
Frosch at Augsburg, Johann Hess at Breslau, Theobald 
Pellican at Nordlingen, Johann Brenz at Schwabischhall, 
Erhard Schnepf at Wimpffen, Michael Stiefel at Eislingen, 
Mirisch and Amsdorf at Magdeburg, Kempe at Hamburg, 
Henry of Zutphen and Jacob Probst at Bremen. In the 
far north-east, where the Teutonic knights held sway, the 
Bishop of Samland espoused the cause of Luther, who sent 
Brissmann and Paul Speratus to evangelise at his episcopal 
seat of Konigsberg and elsewhere in Prussia. From Riga 
came a request for help in the extension of the Gospel in 
Livonia, 22 which was eager to renounce the kingdom of 
Antichrist, and erelong turned almost wholly Lutheran. 23 
Albrecht of Brandenburg, Grandmaster of the Teutonic 
Order, himself ultimately accepted Luther's advice to 
marry and transform Prussia into a secular duchy, 24 though 
the main motive seems to have been personal and political 
rather than religious. 25 Thus within little more than 
three years after the proclamation of the imperial ban, the 
evangelical movement had found corporate expression in a 
large number of reformed congregations in the more important 
centres of civic and industrial life from the Lake of Constance 
to the Baltic. 

Among the princely class there was as yet, on the other 
hand, little active and open response to the appeal of the 
new Gospel. The cautious old Elector continued for political 
reasons to follow the policy of official neutrality in the face 
of the Edict of Worms. His brother John and his nephew 
John Frederick were far more responsive, 26 though not free 
to contravene too openly the Elector's policy. Duke Henry 
of Mecklenburg asked for an evangelist, 27 and so did Duke 
Magnus of Saxe-Lauenburg, 28 whilst the Margrave George 

22 Enders, iv. 11-12. Luther's reply in " Werke," xii. 147 f. 

23 Ibid., iv. 270 ; cf. 296. 

24 Ibid., iv. 359. 

25 See the negotiations with Luther, Enders, iv. 4> 158, 285 f., 359, 
and Luther's own missive to the Teutonic Order, " Werke," xii. 228 f. 

2 * See, for instance, Enders, iv. 356-357. 

7 Ibid., iv. 340. " Ibid., iv. 145 

148 Luther and the Reformation 

of Brandenburg-Ansbach sent a request for instruction on 
the sacramental question and expressed his goodwill. 29 
Duke Henry of Brunswick was also reported to be favourable, 
but the report erelong turned out to be fallacious. The 
same thing happened in the case of Duke Charles of Savoy, 
whilst Duke Karl of Miinsterberg, though at first assuring 
Luther of his adhesion, erelong became an ardent opponent. 30 
Not a few of the higher nobility appear, in Luther's 
correspondence, as declared patrons of his cause, among 
them Counts Ludwig von Stollberg, George von Wertheim, 
Sebastian von Passun, Henry von Schwarzburg, Edzard 
von Ost Friesland, Albert von Mansfeld, Barth. von 
Stahremberg. 31 Whilst, under the influence of Hutten and 
Sickingen, a large number of the lesser nobility were pro- 
fessedly Lutheran, mainly from class and political motives, 
some of them, like Johann von Schwarzenberg and Hartmuth 
von Cronberg, were whole-hearted and active converts. 32 
After the promulgation of the Edict of Worms, Cronberg 
gave up his imperial pension of 200 gulden, 33 and devoted 
himself to the task of vindicating Luther in a series of 
aggressive missives to the Emperor, the Pope, the Imperial 
Regency, and others. 34 Luther wrote him a warm apprecia- 
tion in March 1522, in which he thanked God that he had 
found a disciple who, unlike too many others, not merely 
professed the Word of Christ, but had whole-heartedly 
received and actively championed it. 35 In Argula von 
Grumbach he found a feminine protagonist who wrote a 
spirited defence of his teaching to the University of Ingolstadt 
and to Duke William of Bavaria on behalf of a young 
Magister indicted for heresy. 36 

" Enders, iv. 58. * Hid., iii. 408-410. 

81 " Werke," 52, 132 (Erlangen ed.); Enders, iii. 433; iv. 2 and 
160; iv. 26; iv. 40; iv. 168; v. 10. 

* a For Schwarzenberg see Luther's letter to him, " Werke," 53 

88 Enders, iii. 149. 

84 Kuck, " Die Schriften Hartmuth's von Cronberg," in Niemeyer's 
" Neudrucke," Nos. 154-156 (1899); Walch, xv, 1955 f. 

* " Werke," x., Pt. II., 53 f. 

* Enders, iii. 397 ; i v . 279, 293-294, See also " Werke," xv. 
no f., for Luther's own denunciation of the intolerance of the university. 

Two Diets of Niirnberg (1522-24) 149 


Against this ever-widening movement the Pope and the 
Emperor were powerless to enforce the Edict of Worms. 
Luther's comparative moderation in opposing the radical 
party at Wittenberg after his return from the Wartburg 
had tended to conciliate the Imperial Regency and gained 
him the goodwill of the majority of the Diet, which assembled 
at Niirnberg in November 1522 and continued its session 
till the beginning of March 1523 , 37 To this Diet the new 
Pope, Hadrian VI., deputed Chieregati, Bishop of Tiramo, 
as Nuncio to offer the reform of practical abuses in return 
for the active repression of heresy. Before his unexpected 
election as the successor of Leo X., Hadrian had been the 
tutor of Charles V. and professor of the scholastic theology 
at Lou vain, Inquisitor-General and joint-administrator, with 
Cardinal Ximenes, of Spain, and latterly Vicar of the 
kingdom during the young Emperor's absence in Germany. 
As Inquisitor he had shown an inflexible zeal against heresy 
and an active sympathy with Ximenes' policy of practical 
reform, though, as a purely scholastic divine, he did not 
share the cardinal's enlightened interest in humanism. 38 
This policy he ardently espoused as Pope in an energetic 
though vain effort to put down the corruption rampant in 
the Roman Curia and to effect a drastic practical reformation 
of the Church at large. In an Instruction to the Nuncio, 
which was submitted to the Diet, he exposed and deplored 
with commendable frankness the prevailing degeneration 
of the Curia and the hierarchy, and promised an effective 
remedy. But there must be no compromise with the heretic 
and his followers. Luther has spread heresy and sedition 
throughout Germany, has striven, like Mahomet, to corrupt 
the minds and manners of the people, incited the princes 
to seize ecclesiastical property and stirred up civil war, 
has undermined all constituted authority, secular as well as 
ecclesiastical, on the pretext of vindicating evangelical 

7 " Deutsche Reichstagsakten," iii. 383 f. 

88 For Hadrian's career before he became Pope and the history of 
his short pontificate, see Pastor's " History of the Popes," ix. 34 f. 

150 Luther and the Reformation 

liberty, has attacked the faith of their fathers, condemned 
them as heretics and consigned them to hell. Hadrian 
denies that he has been condemned unheard, and, in 
any case, in matters of faith no discussion is permissible. 
In such matters he avers, in words that Luther himself 
might have used, the Apostles, not the dialecticians are to 
decide. But for Hadrian the faith is not merely what the 
Apostles have taught, but what in addition the Fathers and 
Councils have decreed as articles of faith, and it was just this 
that Luther had so strenuously denied. He must, therefore, 
share the fate of Hus if he will not renounce his heresy, and 
the Edict of Worms must be promptly put in force against 
him and his followers. 39 

In his exposure of the inveterate evils in the Curia and 
the Church, the Pope had gone far to justify Luther's revolt, 
and the majority of the Diet did not lose the opportunity 
of reminding the Nuncio of the fact. Moreover, he over- 
looked the fact that public opinion in Germany had advanced 
a long way since Hus's day, and was in no mood to accept 
the deliverance of even a reforming Pope as to what con- 
stituted heresy. The evangelical preachers at Niirnberg 
did not hesitate to proclaim this heresy from the pulpit, 
despite the Nuncio's demand for their repression, and the 
Town Council stoutly refused to arrest and imprison them, 
and intimated its determination to defend them if need 
be. 40 The rising of Sickingen and the lesser nobility, pro- 
fessedly in the cause of Luther, emphasised in addition the 
extreme risk of attempting to enforce the Edict. In spite, 
therefore, of the Nuncio's eloquence and the efforts of a 
small minority, led by the Archduke Ferdinand, the Elector 
Joachim of Brandenburg, and Duke George of Saxony, 
the majority of the Diet resolved to refer the papal demands 
to a couple of Committees. 41 On the strength of their report, 
which reveals the influence of Luther's friend, Johann von 
Schwarzenberg, the Diet declared its inability to comply 
with the demand (5th February 1523). Whilst professing 

3 'See the Instruction in " Reichstagsakten," iii. 393 f . ; cf. the 
papal Brief directly addressed to the Diet, ibid., iii. 399 f. 
* Ibid., iii. 410 f. Ibid., iii. 419 f. 

Two Diets of Niirnberg (1522-24) 151 

reverence for the Pope and the Emperor, they were not 
prepared to execute the Edict against Luther and his 
followers. In view of the strength of the Lutheran move- 
ment, any attempt to do so would be regarded as an attempt 
to crush evangelical truth and strengthen the corruption 
and abuses rampant in the Curia and the Church, of which 
they submitted a formidable statement, 42 and without the 
reform of which there :ould be no hope of peace or the 
extirpation of the Lutheran heresy. To this end, as well as 
for the purpose of dealing with this heresy, they demanded 
the convocation within a year of a free Christian Council 
in some German city in which the laity should have a voice. 
They would use their influence with the Elector of Saxony 
to prevail on Luther and his followers to abstain meanwhile 
from writing or publishing any controversial books in 
Saxony. Whilst refusing the demand of the Nuncio for 
the punishment of the Lutheran preachers at Niirnberg, 
they would endeavour that all preachers should abstain 
from controversial preaching and limit themselves to the 
preaching of the pure Gospel as contained in Scripture and 
received by the Christian Church, on pain of fit punishment 
for disobedience by the ecclesiastical authorities, on condition 
that there should be no attempt to hinder and suppress the 
preaching of evangelical truth. They further undertook to 
maintain a strict supervision of the press throughout the 
empire, and authorised the punishment of married priests 
and renegade monks and nuns by the ecclesiastical courts. 43 
This deliverance was issued by the Imperial Regency as a 
mandate on the 6th March. 44 

This decision virtually amounted to a suspension of the 
Edict of Worms and left the Lutheran movement to develop 
meantime unhindered by any effective organised opposition. 
It plainly revealed the conviction that it was too powerful 
to be crushed at the Pope's fiat, and that any attempt by 
either the Emperor or the Diet to do so would only lead to 
a national uprising against Rome. At the same time, it 
made no secret of the fact that, in the view of the majority 
of the Diet, the reform of practical abuses was more important 

43 " Reichstagsakten," iii. 645 f. " Ibid., iii. 447- 

* 3 Ibid., iii. 435- 

152 Luther and the Reformation 

than the overthrow of Luther and his cause. " The doctrine 
of Luther," wrote the Archduke Ferdinand to his brother 
Charles on 27th January 1523, " has taken such deep root 
throughout the whole empire, that to-day among every 1,000 
persons there is not one who is not to some extent touched 
by it." 45 

To Luther the refusal of the Diet to do the Pope's bidding 
was very gratifying. 46 The mandate embodying it was in 
due course forwarded by the Elector. In reply, whilst 
expressing his willingness to refrain from further controversy 
pending the assembly of a free Council, exonerating the 
Elector from all responsibility for his views, and disclaiming 
any intention to excite revolt by his writings, he could not 
undertake to keep silence under the attacks of a Faber and 
an Emser, and would not admit that the mandate deprived 
Mm of the right to defend evangelical truth. 47 In a 
communication to the Imperial Regency at the beginning of 
July he subjected the mandate itself to some criticisms, 
and whilst warmly recognising its moderate spirit, protested 
against the unfavourable interpretation put upon it by his 
opponents. He strongly objected to the tendency to identify 
the preaching of the Gospel in accordance with Scripture, 
as received by the Christian Church, with the teaching of 
the Roman Church, Aquinas, Scotus, and others of the 
schoolmen. "Preach the Gospel as Christ Himself has 
directed, and not as the scholastic theologians have devised," 
is for him the only safe standard to follow. He cannot, 
therefore, accept the nominees of the hierarchy as the arbiters 
of true Gospel preaching. Nor can he agree to desist from 
translating and printing the Word of God in the vernacular, 
nor, in view of the grave evils of the celibate life, approve 

** " Reichstagsakten," iii. 911. 

46 Enders, iv. 96. Wittembergse habemus decreta Nurmbergse per 
imperil Proceres edita ad legationes papae, mire libera et placentia, 
excusa autem habemus et latina et vernacula. He refers not to the 
mandate of the Regency embodying the decision of the Diet, which 
he had not yet received, but to the report of the Committees on which 
the decision was based. 

** Letter to the Elector, " Werke," 53, 164-167 (Erlangen ed.), 
29th March. 

Two Diets of Niirnberg (1522-24) 153 

of any other punishment for married priests and emancipated 
monks and nuns than excommunication. 48 

Towards Pope Hadrian himself he is far less restrained. 
The papal Nuncio had brought a number of Briefs to 
Niirnberg, and one of these addressed to the Town Council 
of Bamberg came into his hands. In this missive the Pope 
denounced him and his teaching in very bitter and defamatory 
style. Luther responded by translating it into German, 
with short sarcastic notes, and addressing a brief letter 
to the reader in which he in turn spoke his mind freely 
about this obscurantist and sophistic product of Louvain 
University who wore the tiara, reminding him that the 
truth which the popes had so long suppressed by force 
would no longer be stifled by such abuse and impotent 
ravings. 49 

Less defensible was the concoction in which, jointly with 
Melanchthon, he exercised his ingenuity in expounding the 
significance of certain portents, which naturally in that 
superstitious age called for a providential interpretation, 
and applying them to the Papacy and its satellites. Two 
monstrosities were at his disposal. One, evidently of the 
modern sea-serpent type, with the head of an ass, the breasts 
and stomach of a woman, etc., had, it was believed, been 
fished out of the Tiber in 1496. Another, also in semi-human 
form, with a calf's head and something that looked like a 
monk's cowl, had been born in Freiberg in Saxony. An 
astronomer had seen in the Freiberg monster a presage of 
Luther. 50 To Luther, on the other hand, it was a representa- 
tion of the monastic orders and a clear indication of the 
divine wrath against the papal-monastic deformation of 
Christianity. Similarly, Melanchthon saw in the Tiber 
monster an embodiment of the Pope, and the result of their 
joint lucubration was the " Interpretation of the Pope- 
Ass found at Rome and the Monks Calf at Freiberg." a 
The ass's head on a human body, gravely expounds 

48 " Werke," xii. 63 f. Wider die Verkehrer und Falscher kaiser- 

* Ibid., xi. 342 f. ; Walch, xv. 2652 f. 

* Enders, iv. 57-58, 67. 

" " Werke," xi. 375 f., March 1523 ; cf> Enders, iv. 64. 

154 Luther and the Reformation 

Melanchthon, signifies the human foundation of the Papacy 
on which the Pope's power rests. " For as an ass's head ill 
fits a human body, so little fitting is it that the Pope should 
be head of the Church/' And so forth in detailed fashion 
in regard to the other features of this monstrosity. Luther 
is equally ingenious and equally outrageous in expounding 
the distinctive features of the other monster as a providential 
indication of the abominations of the Roman Antichrist 
and his satellites, the monks. It was really too grotesque 
a persiflage of the Papacy as represented by a man of the 
high character and reforming though narrow zeal of a 
Hadrian at all events. But it suited the taste of the age, 
if it did not reflect credit on that of either Luther or 
Melanchthon, and the concoction instantly leaped into 
many editions. At the same time, it should not be forgotten 
that the worst revilers of the memory of this exemplary 
Pope were the brood of self-seekers who haunted the Curia. 52 
Hadrian's successor, the papal Vice-Chancellor, Giulio di 
Medici, who took the title of Clement VII., renewed the 
attempt to enforce the Edict of Worms, through his Legate, 
Cardinal Campeggio, at a second Diet which assembled 
in the same city ^ in the following January-April 1524, It 
met with little real success. Public opinion was too hostile 
to Rome to admit of any organised and effective effort 
to crush the Lutheran movement. It is significant of the 
attitude of the people that, on bs official entry into Augsburg, 
the citizens jeered at the Legate's benediction, 54 and that 
he was fain to dispense with this formality on his arrival 
at Niirnberg itself and straightway ride to his lodging. 55 
In spite of his presence the sacrament was celebrated in 
both kinds by the evangelical preachers to nearly 4,000 
participants, among them being several members of the 
Imperial Regency, whilst even the Emperor's sister, Isabella, 
the ex-Queen of Denmark, partook in the same manner 

" See, for the attitude of its members, Pastor, " Hist, of the Popes," 
ix. 222 f. 

69 Lindsay mistakenly makes the Diet meet at Spires, " Hist, of 
the Reformation,** i. 322. 

64 " Reichstagsakten," iv. 137-138. 

S5 Ibid., iv. 142. 

Two Diets of Niirnberg (1522-24) 155 

in the castle chapel. 56 The majority of the Estates, indeed, 
in spite of the opposition of the representatives of the cities, 
formally undertook to observe and fulfil the Edict " as far 
as it was possible," and to repress objectionable literature. 
But they renewed the demand for a free General Council in 
Germany and decreed that, pending its convocation, a 
national German assembly should convene in November at 
Spires to discuss what was acceptable and what was objection- 
able in Luther's teaching, and draw up a statement on the 
subject to be submitted to the Council. Meanwhile, the 
Gospel should be preached without controversy in accordance 
with the interpretation of the doctors acknowledged by the 
Church (i8th April). 57 While approving their declared 
intention to enforce the Edict, Campeggio objected to the 
proposed General Council and the preliminary national 
assembly, without succeeding in altering the Diet's resolu- 
tion. 58 The Pope shared the Legate's objection, and at his 
instigation the Emperor issued an Edict on the I5th July 
requiring the Estates to put in force that of Worms, condemn- 
ing their interference with the prerogative of the Pope in 
the matter of a Council, peremptorily forbidding the proposed 
assembly at Spires, and denouncing Luther as a greater 
enemy of the faith than Mahomet. 59 

It was, however, too late in the day to attempt to repress 
what had become a national movement by the absolute fiat 
of the Pope, or the Emperor, or even the Diet. Luther had 
become too potent a force to be treated with the contempt 
and the obloquy which those in the seats of the mighty 
still thought good enough for a foolhardy and rebellious 
monk. The Emperor was, in fact, too deeply immersed 
in the toils of international complications to do more than 
issue impotent commands and threats. In any case, 
Luther was as little disposed as ever to take his orders 
in the cause of the Gospel from Pope, Emperor, or Diet. 

66 Ranke, "Deutsche Geschichte," ii. I39-H; "- 105-106 (1925 
ed.) ; Bezold, " Geschichte der Deutschen Reformation," 439. 

57 " Reichstagsakten,'* iv. 603-605, in German, A Latin version 
is given by Balan, " Monumenta Reformationis Lutherans," 320 f. 

68 Balan, 332. 

59 Walch, xv. 2705 f. 

156 Luther and the Reformation 

He was, in fact, at first not very anxious about the doings 
of the Diet, He knew the ways of Satan too well, he said, 
to worry over them. 60 The actual decision, which in reality 
did not mean very much, seemed, however, in comparison 
with that of March 1523, to be a serious blow to the Gospel, 
and he gave unstinted vent to his wrath in a scathing 
criticism. 61 He angrily points out at the outset the in- 
consistency of the mandate of " these drunken and mad 
notables " who have agreed to carry out the Edict of Worms 
against an outlawed heretic, and yet propose to consider 
and decide at Spires what is good and bad in his teaching. 
With daring defiance and prophetic fervour he then arraigns 
the blindness, the presumption, the stupidity of these 
misguided notables, and finishes with an angry outburst 
against the Emperor and other rulers. " Well, then, we 
Germans must remain Germans and Pope's asses. It is 
no use complaining, teaching, praying, and entreating. 
Even our daily experience of extortion and oppression has 
no efiect. Now, my dear princes and gentlemen, you make 
haste to deliver my poor person to death, and when you have 
succeeded you imagine that you will have triumphed. If, 
however, you had ears to hear, I would tell you something 
that would startle you. How would it be if Luther's life 
has so much value in God's sight that, even if he were gone, 
not one of you would any longer be sure of his life and 
authority, and that his death would be the undoing of 
every one of you? Go, then, merrily on; throttle and 
burn. I will not give way if God wills it. Here I am. 
But I ask you in friendly fashion to beware lest when you 
have put me to death, you do not call me to life again and 
have to put me to death a second time. God has not granted 
me to have to deal with reasonable men, but with German 
beasts who would tear me in pieces like wolves and bears. 
I will at all events remind every one who believes that 
there is a God to refrain from putting in force this mandate. 
Although God has given me the grace not to fear death, 

80 Enders, iv. 295. 

81 " Werke," xv. 254 f. Zwei uneinige und Widerwartige Gebote 
den Luther betrefiend, Aug. 1524. He first gives the Edict of Worms 
and then the mandate based on the decision of the Diet of Nurnberg. 

Two Diets of Niirnberg (1522-24) 157 

as I formerly did, and will help me to die willingly, they 
shall not bring it about before God wills it, rage and curse 
as much as they please. For He, who has into the third 
year preserved me against their will and beyond all my 
expectation, can keep me in safety still longer, although 
I have no great desire to live. And even if they kill me, it 
will be such a death as neither they nor their children will 
overcome. Of this I give them due warning. But what 
does it help. God has blinded and hardened them. Never- 
theless, I beseech you all, dear lords and gentlemen, gracious 
and ungracious, for God's sake to have God before your eyes 
and handle this matter in a different fashion. A great 
calamity is at your door. God's wrath has begun to move 
and you shall not escape if you persist in so acting. What 
will ye, my dear lords ? God is too clever for you. He will 
soon make fools of you. He is also too mighty and will 
erelong destroy you. Have a little fear of His wisdom and 
ask yourselves whether He has not put such thoughts and 
lack of grace in your hearts in order that you may experience 
what He is wont to do with great lords like Pharaoh. One 
part of His song is, * God has cast down the mighty from 
their seats/ Deposuit potentes de sede." ** 

As for that poor mortal " maggot sack/' the Emperor r 
who imagines himself to be the true supreme protector of 
the Christian faith, does not the Scripture say that Christian 
faith is a rock, a divine force stronger than the devil, death, 
and every other power ? And such a force shall need the 
protection of a creature of death whom the scab or the 
smallpox can to-morrow throw on a sick bed ! God help 
us ! What a senseless world we live in ! So with Henry 
VIII., the King of Hungary, and all other would-be defenders 
of the Christian faith. Let all pious Christians join with him 
in commiserating such mad, foolish, senseless, raging, insane 
fools ! 

This is a sample of how Luther in his wrath can stand up 
to his foes, even those of them who wear an imperial or a 
royal crown. He smites them with that terrible pen of his 
with the blast of God's wrath, before which all their armed 

" Werke," xv. 254-255. " -W&. xv. 278. 

158 Luther and the Reformation 

omnipotence is only next door to death. Though the 
apostrophe in his rough Saxon to the Emperor is rather 
shocking to a delicate ear, one can hardly help thinking of 
" Imperial Caesar dead and turned to clay/' or wondering 
whether William Shakespeare might not have borrowed 
something from Martin Luther. 

If Campeggio failed to persuade the Diet to adopt a 
more aggressive policy against the evangelical movement, 
he succeeded in sowing the seeds of a reaction against it. 
At his instigation the Archduke Ferdinand, the Dukes of 
Bavaria, the Archbishop of Salzburg, and a number of other 
South German bishops convened under his auspices 64 at 
Regensburg at the end of June 1524 to consider and decide 
on expedients for the defence of the Church and the reform 
of ecclesiastical abuses. 65 The zeal of the Archduke and the 
Bavarian Dukes was quickened by the concession of a tax 
on the ecclesiastical revenues of their respective territories. 66 
The fruit of the conference was the outbreak of persecution 
in Austria and Bavaria, 67 whilst the Pope urged the Emperor 
to deprive the Saxon Elector of his dignity, and place the 
Lutheran cities under the ban. 68 The meeting at Regensburg 
proved, in fact, the beginning of the disruption of Germany 
into two organised religious parties. A reformed national 
Church on evangelical lines was henceforth an impossibility. 
Nothing came either of the national assembly at Spires or 
the General Council* The Emperor, at the instigation of 
Ferdinand, negatived the former project, whilst a number 
of the cities, in a convention at Spires in July and at Ulna 
in December, undertook to render mutual assistance against 
any attempt to put in force the Edict of Worms. 69 

14 Balan, " Monumenta," 328, 361 f. 

86 Ranke, " Deutsche Geschichte," ii. 145 f . ; ii. 120 f. (1925 ed.) ; 
Janssen, " Hist, of the German People," iv. 44-47, Eng. trans. 

M Enders, v. 14. 

87 Ranke, ii. 170-174; ii. 129 f. (1925 ed.). 

* ft Bezold, ** Geschichte der Deutschen Reformation," 442-443. 
89 Ranke, ii. 175; ii. 133 (1925 ed.); Bezold, 442; Janssen, iv. 



THE rapid growth of the Lutheran movement during the 
years 1521-24 was not due solely to the preaching of the 
Word. Luther's revolt against the Papacy on national as 
well as religious grounds was fitted to appeal to national 
sentiment. National sentiment might not be very strong 
in an empire which was rather a confederation of petty 
states than an organic unit, and in which the central Govern- 
ment, in virtue of the growth of the princely power, was 
notoriously ineffective. " The Holy Roman Empire of the 
German nation " was, in the words of Voltaire, neither Holy, 
nor Roman, nor Empire. The national State in the modern 
sense was, even beyond the borders of Germany, only in 
the making. In theory the empire embodied, in fact, the 
conception of the universal not the national State. It was 
the political counterpart of the universal Church, and was 
thus ill-fitted to develop a strong national consciousness. 
But it had been associated with Germany and its history 
for over 700 years, and was invested with a prestige that 
contributed to preserve the sense of a common nationality 
from the Vosges to the Vistula, from the Baltic to the Alps. 
Even if this sense of a common nationality was weakened by 
the particularism, the dissension to which the mediaeval 
constitution gave scope, the empire was sufficiently homo- 
geneous to respond to an appeal against an alien ecclesiastical 
regime, which was generally felt to be detrimental to the 
commonweal. The corruption and extortion of Rome 
constituted a grievance affecting the general welfare, which 
had found expression in the " Gravamina of the German 
Nation," and for which redress had been demanded in 


160 Luther and the Reformation 

Diet after Diet. In view of the material evils which more 
or less affected all classes, Luther's arraignment of the 
Papacy had excited throughout the empire a keen and 
sympathetic interest, 1 which the purely theological element 
in the indictment would hardly have aroused. The 
majority of the Estates at the Diet of Worms, for instance, 
whilst professing acquiescence in the papal condemnation 
of his teaching, had very significantly reserved the errors 
and evils of a more practical character, the redress of which 
they agreed with the national Reformer in demanding. 
The princes and the nobility, high and low, might be ready 
enough to profit from these abuses in providing Church 
preferment for their needy dependents. They none the less 
resented the greed and corruption of the Roman Curia, 
which drained so large a portion of German wealth Rome- 
wards in the form of papal dues and exactions. Their 
resentment was shared by even the clerical order, which 
was also the victim of Roman rapacity. In as far as the 
Lutheran movement gave expression to this resentment, 
it struck a truly national chord. In the face of this fact it 
erelong appeared that the Emperor and the small papal 
minority had gained only a Pyrrhic victory at Worms. 
The national opposition to an alien and oppressive regime 
had rendered the Edict practically a dead letter. It was 
really a work of supererogation to incarcerate Luther in 
the Wartburg. To enforce the Edict would have been to 
conjure a civil war, if not a revolution. 

As it was, the anti-Roman spirit was erelong to find vent 
in an appeal to force to bring about a new order of things 
in the State, the Church, and Society. Among a section of 
the lesser nobility, the poorer element in the town population, 
and the mass of the peasants, in South Germany in particular, 
there was deep-rooted discontent with the old order. Hence 
the existence of a widespread movement on behalf of political 
and social as well as ecclesiastical reform. In Franconia 
and the Middle Rhine region the lesser nobility resented the 
growing power of the territorial magnates, ecclesiastical and 

1 On the participation of all classes in the demand for the reform of 
ecclesiastical abuses for which the Papacy was responsible, see Below, 
" Ursachen der Reformation," 35 f. 

Luther, Hutten, and Sickingen 161 

secular, and envied the prosperity of the middle class of the 
towns which had acquired affluence and political influence 
as the result of a thriving industry and commerce. They 
were a lawless, degenerate survival of the feudal age which 
cherished the pride and arrogance of the feudal caste without 
the power which, in palmier days, they had exercised under 
the old feudal system. They arrogated to themselves the 
right to maintain a predatory warfare on the commerce of 
the cities. They held in contempt the higher clergy, on 
whose wealth, to which their ancestors had materially 
contributed, they cast longing eyes. 2 In the towns the 
working class, whether organised in the artisan gilds or not, 
was seething with discontent and striving to better its lot 
in antagonism to the upper class, which usually absorbed 
the municipal government and exercised it largely in its own 
interest. Among the peasantry the movement on behalf of 
social emancipation, which had periodically found expression 
in spasmodic risings during the previous half century, had 
been quickened by Luther's evangelical teaching and was 
ripe for a final reckoning with the feudal social system. 

Characteristic of this complex revolutionary tendency 
was the anti-papal and anti-clerical spirit which saw in a 
radical, practical reformation of the Church an indispensable 
condition of the redress of both social and political grievances. 
In this sense the movement was pro-Lutheran and assumed 
a more or less religious aspect. Nolens volens Luther had 
become the prophet of a social and political as well as a 
religious revolution. Without sharing the revolutionary 
aspiration as far as it concerned the redress of political and 
social grievances, he had foreseen the coming cataclysm and 
had again and again warned the ruling classes of its imminence. 

The cause of the nobility found its literary champion in 
Ulrich von Hutten, its would-be vindicator in Franz von 
Sickingen. Hutten had anticipated Luther as a national 

2 Below minimises their degeneration (" Ursachen der Reformation," 
62-64), and it seems that it cannot be maintained of the lower nobility 
as a class. See also Lenz's criticism of Lamprecht's " Deutsche Ges- 
chichte," " Historische Zeitschrift," 1896, 406-408. At the same time, 
as Kalkoff points out (" Hutten und die Reformation," 126 f.), the evU 
was more widespread than Below and Lenz assert. 

1 62 Luther and the Reformation 

ref onner in a series of effusions in dialogue and verse between 
1517 and 1520, in which he had exposed and denounced the 
corruption and tyranny of the Pope and the hierarchy, and 
demanded a radical reformation. The main motive of his 
reform programme was political, not religious. The impulse 
to a purely national reformation came from a humanist 
not a religious source. Hutten will vindicate the imperial 
sovereignty and the national independence from an alien 
ecclesiastical jurisdiction and will make an end of the rampant 
abuses in the Church in the interest of the commonweal, 
and more particularly, if not professedly, of his own order 
of the lesser nobility. His programme of ecclesiastical 
reform was not new. It does little more than re-echo the 
demands which had found expression through the press and 
the Diet, and Luther owed little, if anything, to his inspiration 
in his championship of these demands. It owed its vogue to 
the patriotic verve, the literary felicity with which he played 
his part as a reforming publicist, at first in the language of the 
humanists and later in the vernacular. It also owed some- 
thing to the religious note which, under Luther's influence, 
he ultimately blended with his appeal for reform on national 
lines. If his influence on Luther has been greatly over- 
rated, there can be no doubt about Luther's influence on 
him in this respect. After the Leipzig Disputation he saw 
in Luther the leader of a national revolt against Rome and 
adapted his appeal accordingly. In his " Complaint and 
Admonition against the Power of the Pope" (1520), he 
ranges himself alongside the Wittenberg Reformer, and even 
Hus against the Pope and the hierarchy, 8 and professes the 
Lutheran conception of the Church and the supreme 
authority of the Word. In the " Exhortation to the Free 
and Imperial Cities " (1522), he appears as the defender of 
his cause against the princes. 4 But this profession of zeal 
for the Gospel according to Luther was little more than skin 
deep, and his ill-regulated life as a humanist of the adventurer 
type was hardly fitted to make him a credit to the evangelical 
movement. We miss in his flamboyant polemic against 
Rome and the hierarchy the note of passionate and perf ervid 

* " Opera," iii. 506-507, 517* * Itod., iii. 536. 

Luther, Hutten, and Sickingen 163 

religious conviction which made Luther the prophet of a 
new epoch in religion. He adopts the current evangelical 
phraseology. In reality he is interested only in the political 
aspect of the Lutheran movement as a means of vindicating 
the national freedom from Rome and, at the same time, 
furthering the interest of his own class. As a publicist, 
he was quick to see and take advantage of its political 
implications as he conceived them, and to render it the lip 
service of the politician. In any case, the recourse to 
violent methods in order to attain the end in view was 
incompatible with Luther's conception of a reform by means 
of the Word, and his problematic, impulsive, and reckless 
polemic did not tend to inspire confidence in his capacity 
as a leader in the cause of even national reform. He is the 
type of the aristocratic hotspur, the militant ReicJisritter 
as well as the enthusiastic votary of the new culture. He 
will, indeed, reform both Church and State by means of the 
constituted secular authority, as Luther was also prepared 
to do. In the " Complaint and Admonition " he calls on the 
Emperor and the Estates to take in hand the cause of the 
oppressed Fatherland and the truth of God in the war 
against Roman superstition and error, ecclesiastical corrup- 
tion and exaction. 5 If reform can be achieved by peaceful 
means, good and well. But if not, force must be used, 
even unto bloodshed, against the whole clerical order as the 
common enemy. Nothing less than an armed rising against 
the Pope, the clergy, and the monks will avail, 6 though he 
would exempt the more reputable clerics from violence, 
and if the Emperor and the Estates will not unite in this 
crusade, the nobility and the towns shall not hesitate to 
strike for God, the Fatherland, and the truth. 

" Now's the time to take in hand 
The cause of freedom at God's command." 7 

" Now then, ye pious Germans, now, 
Much armour have we and much horse, 
Halberds enough and also swords. 
Should friendly warning not avail, 
To these will we then have resort." 8 

"Opera,** iii. 504-505, 522-523. 7 Ibid., iii. 506. 

IHd., iii. 523. Ibid., iii. 525. 

164 Luther and the Reformation 

This, in the last resort, is the method of the robber-knight 
in the guise of the national reformer. It was not the method 
that appealed to Luther, who flatly refused to identify his 
cause with this revolutionary violence. Though he had used 
very incendiary language in his reply to Prierias and in the 
" Address to the Nobility/' he had never contemplated an 
irresponsible rising, and had summarily rejected the idea of 
a war against the clergy in his letter to Spalatin in January 
1521. His conception of a national Reformation was one 
undertaken by the Diet, acting deliberately in the general 
interest in virtue of its constitutional powers and its obliga- 
tion, as a Christian institution, to repress evil and maintain 
the common good. Otherwise, the Word of God, not the 
sword of the Reichsritter, is the only weapon he will use in 
behalf of the Gospel. 

Moreover, Hutten's summons to a war against the Church 
was, in part at least, motived by class interest. He is the 
enemy not only of Rome but of the territorial magnate. 
In the " Exhortation to the Free and Imperial Cities " the 
crusade on behalf of a national Reformation becomes a revolt 
of the towns, in alliance with the nobility, against the 
princes, secular and ecclesiastical, who are a set of tyrants 
and usurpers of the rights of the nobles and burghers. 

" The poor nobility they devour, 

The towns of freedom to deprive, 
They daily strive with all their power." * 

From these tyrants and usurpers and their artful jurist 
advisers, justice cannot be had. They make the Imperial 
Regency their catspaw, appropriate the powers of the 
Emperor, and strive to crush Dr Luther and the Gospel. 
The only remedy lies in the union of the knights and the 
towns to vindicate the old rights and liberties and stem 
this unconstitutional princely usurpation at their expense. 
There was no little force, from the constitutional point of 
view, in this indictment of the growing power of the terri- 
torial magnates and of the misuse of their power for their 
own aggrandisement. As we have seen, Luther, as well as 
Hutten, is found on occasion denouncing their misgovern- 

0peza,"iii. 529. 

Luther, Hutten, and Sickingen 165 

ment. But the idea of a union of the lesser nobility and the 
towns for this purpose was, in view of their inveterate 
antagonism, too visionary to be taken seriously. The 
towns had suffered too much from the predatory lawlessness 
of the robber-knight to see in this class the vindicators of 
their constitutional rights and their interests against the 
princes. Moreover, Luther was too conscious of his in- 
debtedness to the territorial magnate, in the person of the 
Elector of Saxony, to countenance such a fantastic scheme, 
even if Hutten was ready to except the " pious princes " 
from its operation. 10 Besides, the regime of the territorial 
magnate, however self-seeking, was at least a check on the 
egoism and lawlessness of the class to which Hutten belonged. 
It stood for law and order within the princely territory, if it 
tended to weaken the central imperial Government and the 
empire as an international force. 11 

The leader behind whom the nobility and the towns 
should range themselves against the princes and in behalf 
of Luther and ecclesiastical reform was Franz von Sickingen. 
Like Hutten himself, and with still less reason, Sickingen has 
been idealised by his modern admirers into the ardent 
champion of German nationalism against its enemies, 
both internal and external. Facts do not tend to confirm 
this idealist acceptation of the man and his aspirations. 
He is primarily the type of the freebooting Reichsritter on 
the grand scale a combination of the robber-knight 
and the military adventurer who, by a series of successful 
military exploits, had acquired affluence and invested his 
name with a widespread prestige. By the time that Luther 
had begun his crusade against Antichrist he had, in fact, 

10 "Opera," Hi. 529. 

11 The older conception of Hutten as a national hero and a co-worker 
with Luther in the cause of religious reform, which found classic expres- 
sion in the work of Strauss (1858, revised ed., 1871) and in vol. vii. of 
Strauss *s works, edited by Zeller (1877), has been greatly modified by 
more recent research. Though this conception found supporters in 
Szamatolski, " Hutten's Deutsche Schriften," " Quellen und Forsch- 
ungen zur Sprach und Culturgeschichte," Heft 67 (1891), and others, 
it has been subjected to a trenchant examination and criticism by Kalkoff, 
" Ulrich v. Hutten und die Reformation " (1920), and Hutten's " Vagan- 
tenzeit und Untergang " (1925). 

1 66 Luther and the Reformation 

become a force to be reckoned with in the imperial and 
princely chancellories, and even in those of foreign rulers. 
But his exploits as a German condottiere constitute a rather 
meagre foundation for the hero worship that later trans- 
formed him into a statesman of far-reaching vision, a leader 
in the cause of national regeneration and religious independ- 
ence of Rome. Seen through the critical microscope of 
recent research, he does not seem to have risen much, if at 
all, above the level of the enterprising military adventurer 
who might shine in a freebooting raid, but had no real 
military capacity, let alone political genius. Certain it is 
that he proved a failure as the leader of the campaign on the 
Meuse against France, with which the Emperor entrusted 
him in the summer of 1521, and that the last of his raids 
against the Elector-Archbishop of Trier in the following 
year proved a fiasco and brought his meteoric career to a 
sudden and tragic conclusion. 12 

Through Hutten, Sickingen bad been made acquainted 
with Luther's struggle with Rome, and in June 1520 he had 
offered him a refuge in the Ebernburg. 13 Luther had no 
desire to exchange the patronage of the Elector of Saxony 
for that of the redoubtable condottiere. But at the Elector's 
instigation he wrote him a couple of letters (2Qth June, 
3ist August) requesting him to use his influence with the 
Emperor in his behalf. 14 The request was seconded by 
Spalatin's personal intercession (November 1520), and 
Sickingen, who was then at Cologne in attendance on the 
Emperor, readily undertook to present his " Erbieten " 
and accompanying letter to the young monarch, whose 
favour he had earned by a loan of 20,000 gulden. 15 In 
April 1521 he attempted to deflect him from his resolution 
to enter Worms by the renewed offer of a refuge in the 
Ebernburg. The offer, as we have seen, was merely a 

18 The more idealist conception of Sickingen as a national hero is 
represented by Ulmann, " Franz von Sickingen " (1872). The more 
critical attitude is taken by Boos, " Franz v. Sickingen und die Stadt 
Worms," " Zeitschrift fur die Geschichte des Oberrheins," Neue Folge, 
iii. (1888), and especially by Kalkoff in his two recent works on Hutten. 

13 Enders, ii. 410. 

M Ibid., ii. 426, 471. Ulmann, 163. 

Luther, Hutten, and Sickingen 167 

manoeuvre on the part of Luther's enemies to prevent him 
from appearing before the Diet, and Luther was shrewd 
enough not to fall into the trap. He does not, however, 
appear to have suspected the good faith of his would-be 
protector, and on the ist June he dedicated to him from 
his " Patmos " in the Wartburg his work on " Confession," 
in recognition of the great comfort and help he had 
experienced at his hands. 16 He addresses him, moreover, 
as his " special lord and patron/' In view of his career 
as a lawless marauder the designation can hardly be said 
to have been well chosen. In his feud against Worms, 
for instance, he had applied without stint in the neighbouring 
region the barbarous method of forcing a capitulation by 
every species of outrage and wanton cruelty. Luther must 
have known of the rough deeds of the ferocious filibuster 
whom he addresses so respectfully and appreciatively, and 
even if such ferocity was an all too common feature of the 
brutal warfare of the period, it does seem a stretch of 
Christian charity to recognise in the lawless freebooter a 
patron of the Gospel, even though he was now the com- 
missioned leader of a mercenary army against the Emperor's 
enemy. It may be said in exculpation of this myopic view 
that to the solitary seer in the Wartburg, oppressed by the 
impotence of exile, the strong man of the Ebernburg who, 
under Hutten's tutelage, was glibly professing allegiance to 
the Word of God as interpreted by Dr Luther, might at least 
be destined to be the agent of God's judgments against the 
enemies of the Gospel " the ecclesiastical junkers and 
tyrants " who are striving to crush him and the truth of 
God, and who in their blindness are courting their own 
destruction. This is the contingency which Luther fore- 
shadows in the dedicatory letter if these blind tyrants, who 
have rejected all his pleas and efforts for a reformation by 
discussion and reason, continue in their infatuated policy 
of suppressing the truth by force. They are heading 
straightway for disaster, and if they will not betimes change 
their mad course, some one else will teach them their folly, 
" not like Luther by letters and words, but by deeds." 

" " Werke," via. 138-140* 

1 68 Luther and the Reformation 

He does not say that this is his method, which is expressly 
that of proclaiming the truth. He had, in fact, promptly 
rejected Hutten's plan of an anti-clerical war, and there is 
no reason to suppose that he was deliberately inciting 
Sickingen to undertake such a war. The dedication is, in 
truth, directed rather to the enemies of the Gospel than to 
Sickingen. It is sent forth as a warning to beware of the 
consequences of the policy of persecution on behalf of a 
doomed system of corruption and falsehood, which will 
infallibly lead to violence and revolution. 

In view of the growing restiveness which he had observed 
during his furtive journey to and from Wittenberg in December 
1521, Luther deemed it advisable to restrain the aggressive 
revolutionary spirit which the reform movement, under the 
influence of Hutten and other professed adherents, was 
tending to develop. Hence the emphasis in the " Ex- 
hortation against Tumult and Revolt " on the obligation 
of all Christians to leave the reform ot religion to the secular 
power and the operation of the Word. This caveat against 
revolutionary violence entirely failed to deflect the hotspur 
Hutten, against whom, according to Kalkoff, 17 it was 
particularly directed, from his plan of a league of the 
nobility and the towns against prince and priest. 

After the failure of the expedition on the Meuse, Sickingen 
was in a mood to try his fortune in any desperate adventure 
on his own accord. An assembly of the Upper Rhenish 
nobility at Landau on the I3th August 1522 elected him 
Captain-General of their league to vindicate the rights and 
privileges of their order. 18 Though the towns stood aloof 

17 Kalkoff assumes that in writing the " Exhortation " he had in mind 
the " Neukarsthans " with its appended thirty articles, in which Luther 
saw the hand of Hutten (Hutten's " Vagantenzeit," 310). If so, he 
was mistaken. The author of the " Neukarsthans " was, according to 
Kalkoff, Bucer, not Hutten, and represents Sickingen as counselling 
Karsthans to observe moderation and justice in carrying out the proposed 
Reformation. This rather militates against KalkofPs assumption that 
the " Exhortation " was primarily a counterblast to the " Neukarsthans," 
rather than to the unrest among the peasants, though the thirty articles 
appended to it by the Strassburg printer, Schott, were certainly violent 
enough and might well excite Luther's apprehension, if he had read them. 

18 Ulmann t 250 f . 

Luther, Hutten, and Sickingen 169 

from this combination in spite of Hutten's specious appeal 
to their self-interest, Sickingen took advantage of the situa- 
tion to carry out a predatory raid against the Archbishop- 
Elector of Trier, against whom he had a personal grievance, 
and whose territory offered a rich booty. Hence the declara- 
tion of war which he hurled from the Ebernburg against him 
as an enemy of God, the Emperor, and the empire. 19 The 
archbishop's delinquency as an enemy of God seems to refer 
to his treatment of Luther at Worms. In reality the motive 
of the expedition was the freebooting instinct of the robber- 
knight, and the attempt of Kettenbach, Hartmuth von 
Cronberg, and other zealous Lutherans to magnify it into a 
crusade " against the unchristian yoke of the priesthood 
on behalf of evangelical freedom/' as Kettenbach phrased 
it in his manifesto in Sickingen's name, is purely an idealising 
distortion of the reality. With Luther and his cause the 
expedition had precious little to do, except in the make- 
believe of such visionary partisans, whom Luther himself 
had denounced beforehand. 20 Instead of inaugurating a 
revolution, the raid speedily proved a fiasco. Richard von 
Greiffenklau defended the walls of Trier against the raiders 
so stoutly that Sickingen was fain to retire baffled in the 
middle of September, to be in turn besieged in his castle 
of Landstuhl by the archbishop and his allies, the Elector 
Palatine and the Landgrave of Hesse, and mortally wounded 
(30th April 1523) whilst standing in the breach of its walls 
with his face to the foe. His premature death, the flight 
of Hutten to Switzerland, and the expedition of the Suabian 
League against the Franconian nobility gave the quietus to a 
movement which, even if it had succeeded, would not have 
inaugurated the millennium in Church and State. " Even 
at that time," judges Ranke, " it was perceived that if the 
power of the princes was overthrown and the constitution 

" Ulmann, 283-284. 

20 Kettenbach's manifesto was, in fact, composed after Sickingen's 
death, Kalkoff, " Vagantenzeit," 320 f. The older accounts of Ranke, 
Bezold, and others are written too much under the influence of the 
assumption that Sickingen was the evangelical champion that these 
enthusiasts represent. They should be compared with KalkofFs critical 
treatment of the subject. 

170 Luther and the Reformation 

of the empire broken up, nothing was to be expected but an 
exclusive, violent, and, at the same time, self-conflicting 
rule of the nobles." 21 In the case of poor Hutten the 
abortive rising had certainly not been a success. He, too, 
shortly afterwards ended his stormy career at the age of 
thirty-four, the victim of an ill-regulated life and an ill- 
conceived political programme, which he had neither the 
means nor the capacity to bring to fruition. " He left," 
pathetically says Zwingli, who befriended him in his forlorn 
condition, " nothing of any value. He had neither books, 
nor furniture, nothing but a pen." ** 

" This affair will have a very bad ending," wrote Luther 
on hearing the news of Sickingen's adventure. 23 "God is 
a just but a wonderful judge," was his comment on hearing 
of his death. 24 His opponents regarded him as Luther's 
ally, and Luther himself as the instigator of his attack on a 
great ecclesiastical potentate. " That devil of a monk and 
Franz von Sickingen are one and the same thing," wrote 
Duke George's representative at Nurnberg. 25 " The anti- 
emperor has fallen ; the anti-pope must soon follow," 
boasted the Romanists. 26 Both the implication and the 
prognostication were unfounded. Whilst warning his 
enemies of the danger to themselves of the policy of 
persecution, and telling them that they will deserve the 
fate they are courting, Luther had plainly enough con- 
demned the propagation of his cause by lawless force six 
months before Sickingen started his rash enterprise. True, 
he himself in his angry moods had used very fiery language 
in denunciation of the prelates in his philippic against the 
falsely named Order of Bishops (July 1522). It is, he urged, 
the duty of every Christian to maintain God's Word and 
ordinance and to sacrifice body, life, goods, honour, and 
friends, and all things to overthrow the devil's order, or if 
they cannot do so, to shun and flee from it. All who thus 

11 " Deutsche Geschichte," ii. 76; ii. 83 (1925 ed.). 
M See Mackinnon's " History of Modern Liberty," ii. 67. 
18 Enders, iv. 40. " Ibid., iv. 143. 

" Deutsche Reichstagsakten," iii. 880; Gess, " Akten und Briefe 
zur Kirchenpolitik Herzog Georgs," i. 401 (1905). 
Ulrnann, 386. 

Luther, Hutten, and Sickingen 171 

strive to overthrow the bishop's ungodly rule are God's 
children and true Christians, whereas all who support it 
and are willingly subject to it are the devil's servants and 
strive against God's ordinance and law. 27 This does sound 
like an incitement to violence. But this explosion was not 
in reality so revolutionary as it sounds, and was not meant 
to incite the people to rise in arms against the bishops 
and the clergy. It was the excited prelude to his Bull of 
Reformation which contemplates no more than the exercise 
of the right of the Christian congregation in every town to 
elect an evangelical preacher on the Pauline model, and 
forswear obedience to the episcopal rule which is striving 
to crush the Gospel to the destruction of souls. 88 It was 
certainly not intended to be an apology for the lawless 
enterprise of Sickingen. At the same time, it must be 
admitted that Luther did not always weigh the possible 
implication of such violent language, or realise the effect 
of such an outburst in an atmosphere charged with the 
electricity of political and social as well as religious 

It was in the midst of this upheaval that he sent forth the 
work in which he discussed the civil power and its claim 
to the allegiance of the subject. 29 It was the systematic 
presentation of the thoughts contained in a couple of sermons 
preached at Weimar in October I522, 30 and was dedicated 
to the Elector's brother, Duke John, His attitude to the 
question is conditioned by that of the princes towards the 
evangelical movement, and he disclaims any desire to 
intrude into the purely political sphere. He writes as a 
theologian, not as a political philosopher, and tends to 
evaluate the government of the rulers according as they are 
friendly or hostile to the Gospel as he interprets it. He 
had, he reminds them, appealed to them in the " Address 
to the Nobility" to take up the cause of Reformation. 
The outcome of this appeal, in which he had recognised their 
right to undertake this task, had been the Edict of Worms 

" " Werke," x., Pt. II., 139-140. " Ibid.* x., Pt. II., 144. 

89 Von Weltlicher Obirkeit, wie weit man ihr Gehorsam Schuldig 
sei, March 1523, " Werke," xi. 245 f. 
30 Enders, iv. 22. 

172 Luther and the Reformation 

against him and his adherents, which was based on the 
assumption that they were entitled to lord it over the faith 
and conscience of their subjects, and that their subjects were 
bound to obey their decisions in spiritual things. 31 This 
assumption he now emphatically denies, and he, who had 
not feared to brave the Pope, cares not if he excites then- 
wrath in plainly telling them so. The civil power is, indeed, 
divinely ordained. Princes rule by divine right and their 
subjects are bound to render obedience to their absolute 
rule in things secular. Luther is no democrat like Zwingli, 
and leaves no room for individual self-assertion under the 
political constitution which he adduces from the Bible. 
If all the members of the State were true Christians, the 
sword of the ruler would be superfluous, since all would 
mould their actions in accordance with the divine will, and 
injustice and wrong would not exist. But as society, in 
which the true Christians form but a mere fraction, is actually 
constituted, the civil power is essential for the prevention 
of anarchy and the punishment of evildoers. This being 
so, the Gospel does not free the Christian from subjection 
to it, as the extremists proclaim in the name of evangelical 
freedom. At the same time, there is a limit to its jurisdiction, 
and here Luther becomes the prophet of spiritual, if not of 
political liberty, in reaction from the mediaeval conception 
of the subjection of the individual mind and conscience 
to priestly domination operating through the State. The 
civil power has no right to intrude into the spiritual sphere, 
were it even only as the agent of this priestly domination. 
There is an absolute distinction between the spiritual and 
the material which the civil power may not ignore. Its 
jurisdiction extends only to material and external things. 
It has no jurisdiction whatsoever over the soul, no right to 
command and enforce its authority in matters of faith. 
To do so is to encroach on God's prerogative and the 
function of the Word, through which alone He rules the soul. 
The prince, therefore, has no right to enforce the decisions 
of the Church, the Fathers, or Councils, at the behest of an 
ecclesiastical authority which has distorted the faith and 

" " Werke," xi. 246. 

Luther, Hutten, and Sickingen 173 

which is not the Church according to God's Word, but the 
apostle of the devil. For the individual soul God's Word 
alone is the only standard of truth and obligation. More- 
over, faith cannot be engendered by force. God alone can 
evoke and nurture it in the soul. At most, force can secure 
only an external conformity and foster hypocrisy. Hence 
the proverb, " Thought is duty free/' It is, therefore, as 
futile as it is contrary to Christ's teaching. " Heresy can 
never be warded off by force. ... It can only be overcome 
by God's Word. You may burn every Jew and heretic in 
the world. You will not convert or overcome a single one 
thereby/' 32 The princes, ecclesiastical and secular, who 
will not see this are a set of blind fools and tyrants, oppressors 
of the bodies and souls of their subjects, who are steering 
straight for destruction, and whose misgovernment is ripe 
for the judgment of God. Against these tyrants he boldly 
maintains the right of the subject not to obey their tyrannical 
decrees. He does not say that the subject may actually 
resist. It is the duty of the Christian to suffer wrong and 
violence, not to repel it. But he shall not yield a hairs- 
breadth to their tyranny over soul and conscience in things 
spiritual, and must be prepared to suffer gladly under it in 
tie conviction that the tyrants will erelong find their judge. 
Meanwhile he tells these tyrants in very drastic terms what 
he thinks of them. " From the beginning of the world a 
wise prince has been a rare bird, a pious one still rarer. 
They are usually the greatest f ools, the worst scoundrels on 
earth." 33 Whilst he inculcates passive resistance and 
assigns their punishment to God, he warns them of the blind 
folly of presuming too much on the long-suffering of the 
common man, whom their misgovernment is surely driving 
to desperation. He reminds them of the text, Effundit 
contemptum super principes. " There are few princes whom 
the people do not regard as fools and scoundrels. This 
comes of their proving themselves to be such. The common 
man is becoming intelligent and holds them in contempt. 
He will not and cannot suffer your tyranny and arbitrary 
rule indefinitely. Make your account with this fact, my dear 

" " Werke," xi. 268-269. Ibid., xh 267-268. 

174 Luther and the Reformation 

princes and lords. God will no longer put up with your 
tyranny. The world is no longer the world of the old days, 
when you could hunt and harass the people like game. 1 ' 34 
Though the prince rules by divine right, this does not imply 
that he is entitled to rule as he pleases. They may only 
use the sword in the service of justice, and should temper 
force by law and reason, which is the highest law. They 
shall model their government on the will of God, not merely 
on the jurists and their law books, and rule for the common 
good, in accordance with Christian duty, not for their own 
aggrandisement. Whilst the princes shall show due 
obedience to the Emperor as their overlord and be prepared 
to suffer injustice at his hands, they are entitled to defend 
themselves and their subjects from the aggression of other 
princes, and in such a contingency their subjects are bound 
to follow them in war. But if they wage war in an unjust 
cause, their subjects are not bound to obey and aid them. 
No one can be forced to act against the right, and in this case 
they are bound to obey God, not man. 35 Though he 
recognises the right of war, he urges the application of the 
principle of arbitration and the Golden Rule as a surer means 
of attaining a just decision and preventing disputes. 36 


Luther's warning to the princes to beware of the effect 
of their misgovernment on the common man erelong proved 
to be only too well founded. Within little more than a 
year the empire was in the throes of a revolution against 
the feudal political and social system, on which the princely 
regime was based. It was only the climax of a series of 
violent attempts which had periodically occurred in Germany 
during the previous half century. This pre-Reformation 
revolutionary movement was social and political, not 
specifically religious, though it more or less contained a 
religious element. It was primarily a movement on behalf 
of the emancipation of the masses from the feudal social 
system, coupled with the aspiration for a more democratic 

Wcrke," xi. 270. Ibid., xi. 277. Ibid., xi. 279. 

Luther and Social Reform 175 

order in the State in place of the feudal constitution, which 
conferred power and privilege on the higher classes. The 
striving of the peasants for emancipation from feudal 
services and dues was to some extent influenced by the grow- 
ing tendency on the part of the landowners to subvert the old 
customary law by the application of the principles of the 
Roman law, in support of the absolute right of the local 
lord over the land and its tillers. Whilst the peasant was 
striving to secure the abolition or the modification of his 
servile or semi-servile status, his lord was attempting by 
means of this expedient to counter this striving and thereby 
aggravate and perpetuate his bondage. Similarly, within 
the industrial cities there was active discontent on the part 
of the working class with the regime of the master gilds on 
the score of wages and hours of labour, and the preponderant 
influence of the members of these gilds on the municipal 
government. Moreover, the revolutionary spirit was intensi- 
fied by the economic development which in the late mediaeval 
age in Germany, in virtue of a thriving industry and com- 
merce, was tending to raise prices and monopolise wealth 
in the hands of the merchant class, especially the great 
trading companies, to the detriment of the masses in town 
and country. 87 

17 The phrase " Rising of the Peasants " is, strictly speaking, 
insufficient as a designation of the insurrection of 1524-25, in view of 
this wider discontent which coalesced in the movement. The social and 
economic conditions which produced the Rising have been expounded, 
discussed, and summarised in a long series of works from that of Ranke 
onwards. See the later works of Janssen, Lamprecht, Bezold, Kautsky, 
Lenz, von Below, Schonlank, Bios, Schmoller, etc. One of the most 
illuminating and judicial reviews of the subject is given in the recent 
work of Stolze, " Der Bauernkrieg und die Reformation," II f. (1926). 
The latest elaborate work on the pre-Refonnation movement is that 
of Rosenkrantz, " Der Bundschuh, die Erhebungen des sudwest deut- 
schen Bauernstandes," 1493-1517 (1927). In English the subject is 
treated by Bax, " German Society at the Close of the Middle Ages " ; 
Schapiro, "Social Reform and the Reformation" (1909); and in 
my ' ' History of Modern Liberty, " i . ( 1 906) . Recent research has tended 
to modify in some respects the views of Lamprecht and his school. See 
the criticisms of Lenz, " Historische Zeitschrift " (1896), 385 f . ; von 
Below/ M Ursachen der Reformation," 57 f., and his review of Kaser's 
book in " Historische Zeitschrift " (1902), 100-103. 

176 Luther and the Reformation 

Very noteworthy is the antagonism to the Church as a 
feudal institution in this pre-Reformation revolutionary 
movement. Roman Catholic historians are quite mistaken 
in their attempt to minimise or ignore the anti-ecclesiastical 
element in this movement, and to ascribe that of 1524-25 
largely or solely to Luther's influence. The anti-clerical 
feature is discernible long before Luther's advent, and it is 
highly probable that, even if he had not started the evangel- 
ical Reformation, the revolutionary challenge in behalf of 
" the Justice of God " (Gerechtigkeit Gottes), as opposed to 
the existing oppressive and unjust social order and legal 
system, would nevertheless have sounded over a large part 
of the empire. " The idea of a great revolution had, during 
the previous fifty years, become a fixed idea revolution of 
society, revolution of the Church, for the two usually went 
hand in hand, though the peasant was, of course, more 
immediately concerned with the amelioration of his miserable 
lot. Ominous prophecies, elaborate schemes of this great 
transformation had passed from lip to lip, nay, had been 
written down like any party programme of the present 
day. A deliverer should appear (for long it was the 
resurrected Frederick II. who should put his hand to 
the task of a radical reform of empire and society), and the 
outline of his work was ready to his hand. Such an outline 
is ' The Reformation of Kaiser Sigismund/ to whom, when 
the great Frederick came not, the popular expectation had 
eagerly but vainly turned. Another, * The Reformation of 
Kaiser Frederick/ had pinned the popular faith to Frederick 
III., and then the hopes that the third Frederick disappointed 
had sought their realisation in his son, the chivalrous 
Maximilian. But the peasants were doomed to discover 
again and again that, in spite of the favourable omens which 
the astrologers read in the movements of the planets, each 
prospective reformer on the imperial throne would not or 
could not rise to the height of his humanitarian mission. 
The peasant, it was patent, must help himself, must be his 
own benefactor, and to this end must unite in a great Bund 
or union, and secure by his own brawny arm the Reformation 
which kaiser, prelate, prince refused to grant." w 

88 Mackianon, " History of Modern Liberty," L 170-171. 

Luther and Social Reform 177 

During the five years preceding that in which Luther 
nailed up his theses against indulgences, there were, in fact, 
repeated local attempts to inaugurate this social trans- 
formation in Wiirtemberg, Alsace, Baden, and other regions 
of South Germany. 

At the same time, it is obvious that the religious move- 
ment started by Luther could hardly fail to quicken the 
revolutionary spirit, ho\vever little he might intend to 
sweep away the dominant political and social order by force, 
and however much he might strive to dissociate the evangel- 
ical movement from this spirit. He himself had appealed 
in the " Address to the Nobility " to constituted authority 
to take in hand the pressing task of social reform. He did 
not lose sight of the subject in the course of nis absorbing 
polemic against his theological opponents, and there can 
be no doubt that he was genuinely interested in the social 
betterment of the people, though he did not regard it as his 
specific mission as a religious reformer to concern himself 
with social, economic, and political reform, and professed 
his unfitness to intrude into this sphere. In the very 
summer of 1524 in which the revolution broke out, he attacked 
the new commercial system in his tractate on " Commerce 
and Usury/' 39 He does so more from the theological and 
moral standpoint than in accordance with the new economic 
outlook. In this respect his political economy is rather 
antiquated, and while he shows a remarkable knowledge of 
the business methods and transactions of his time, he has 
not grasped the economic principles which were operating 
the transformation from the mediaeval to the modern 
commercial and financial system. What, as a Christian 
moralist, he sees and condemns in this system is the tendency 
to concentrate undue wealth in the hands of individuals and 
trading associations. This tendency he ascribes purely to 
the greed of the merchant class in which " there are few who 
would rather be poor with God than rich with the devil." * 
The new commercial system is, therefore, both unchristian 
and detrimental to the commonweal, and he goes so far as 

* Von Kaufshandlung und Wucher, in which he incorporated his 
sermon on Wucher of 1520. " Werke," xv. 293 f. 
40 Ibid., xv. 293. 

178 Luther and the Reformation 

to denounce the import trade with foreign countries like 
England, Portugal, India, which drains Germany of its gold 
for the benefit of the merchants and impoverishes the people, 
and by raising prices diminishes its capacity to buy the 
necessaries of life. He shares the idea that the wealth of 
a country consists in money, and that its prosperity depends 
on keeping its money within its own borders. The new com- 
mercialism, he insists, has transformed the merchant class into 
a set of extortioners and usurers and is incompatible with 
Christian altruism, which seeks the good not of self but of 
others. The rascally merchant, whose striving is to sell 
his wares at as high a price as possible, lives by the plunder 
of his neighbour, lends his ill-gotten wealth at a high 
interest, which he would limit to the Mosaic standard, 
sells his goods on credit, gets thereby the property of his 
neighbour into his clutches, buys up certain articles in 
order to monopolise the sale of them, and thus secures an 
undue profit. The whole system is steeped in trickery, 
is, in fact, pure swindling, which makes these swindlers 
richer than emperors and kings. No one ought to have 
the right or the power to charge more than a fair price. 
Those who do so are thieves and robbers, and it is the duty 
of kings and princes to take drastic measures against these 
plunderers. The appeal to the Christian conscience being 
ineffectual, the secular princes would, he thinks, act quite 
rightly in seizing the goods of these financiers and rings and 
driving them out of the country. 41 Unfortunately, kings 
and princes are mostly hand and glove with these thieves 
and robbers. They hang a thief who steals a gulden and 
traffic with those who rob all the world. Hence the proverb, 
" Great thieves hang the small ones/' 

All this is, of course, one-sided and lacking in scientific 
insight as a diagnosis of the economic development of the 
time. 42 But it did bring into relief some of the 
objectionable features of the new system and, as the dis- 

41 " Werke," xv. 307. 

48 See the Introduction to the tractate in ibid,, xv. 279 f., and the 
special reviews of Schmoller, Wiskemann, Roscher, Uhlhorn, Kluck- 
holm, Nathusius, etc. A summary of the tractate is given by Waring, 
*' The Political Theories of Martin Luther," 213 f. (1910). 

Luther and Social Reform 179 

cussions and demands in the Diets at Niirnberg show, it 
appealed to a widespread public opinion which, if equally 
incapable of understanding the economic forces at work in 
undermining the old system, was none the less resentful 
and restive on this account. Whilst Luther seeks a remedy, 
not in revolution, but in an appeal to conscience and 
constituted authority (the Diet and the local governments), 
he does not mince words in denouncing the system and its 
abettors. The evil has become intolerable, and in flaming 
language he proclaims the judgment of God on it and them. 
God is at hand with His scourge. What if the people takes 
the divine scourge into its own hands and starts the revolu- 
tion which Luther would certainly not consciously encourage, 
far less sanction ? He assuredly cannot be accused of 
subservience to the rich middle class of the towns in the 
interest of the evangelical movement, though this movement 
found material support in this class. 

In his attack on Rome he had also at times made use of 
very revolutionary language. This attack, even within the 
limits he had set himself, was revolutionary enough, and the 
principles of the new theology undoubtedly contained demo- 
cratic implications. The watchword of his religious teaching 
was liberty liberty for the individual Christian from the 
religious trammels of the past, from the domination of 
Rome, and the Roman ecclesiastical system. His doctrine 
of the priesthood of all believers involved the equal rights of 
all Christians as such, the ideal of a spiritual democracy. 
His conception of the autonomous religious community 
freely recognised the right of its members to a controlling 
voice in its government. In the early stage of the 
evangelical movement it seemed, in view of these democratic 
implications of his religious teaching, as if he were destined 
to be the leader of a larger Reformation than he himself wot 
of, or was really fitted to achieve. The people might well see 
in him the long-looked for champion of the new order in the 
State and society as well as in the Church, which the popular 
seers had foretold and the popular agitator had vainly 
attempted to realise. Again and again he had protested 
against the oppression of the common man, pleaded for a 
more equitable system of government, and warned prince 

180 Luther and the Reformation 

and prelate of the retribution which their misgovermnent 
invited. It was, however, as the theologian and the religious 
leader that he trenched on this wider sphere. As a theo- 
logian and a religious reformer he sharply differentiated 
between the spiritual and the temporal, the things of the 
soul and the things of the world. Whilst he would Christianise 
the State, and recognised its ethical function, he exempted 
the individual soul in its relation to God from its domination. 
Civil government has to do with the body, not the soul, and 
the things of the body are of immeasurably less consequence 
than the salvation of the soul, which is the thing that really 
matters. Outside the religious sphere the Christian is called 
on to suffer, to submit to his lot in an evil world, as part of 
God's discipline, without demur- There is no necessary con- 
nection between religious and social and political reform. 


In this respect Luther did not really understand the 
tendency of the religious movement he inaugurated, and 
erelong the movement threatened to go farther and faster 
than he contemplated to develop a more radical, subjective, 
and democratic character. The result was the disruption 
of the Reformation party, and this disruption is of great 
significance for the connection of the social Revolution with 
the religious Reformation. While, on the one hand, it 
tended to set Luther against the revolutionary spirit with 
which his radical opponents sympathised, and to which 
he was otherwise by principle and predilection opposed, 
it provided, on the other, a link between the religious and 
the social movement. Carlstadt not only preached a more 
radical religious Reformation than commended itself to 
Luther, He had far more sympathy with the democratic 
aspirations of the masses, though he was not an advocate 
of revolutionary violence and had refused to make common 
cause with extremists like Miinzer. 43 Similarly, reforming 
preachers like Strauss at Eisenach, Schappler at Memmingen, 

** Barge, ii. 14-16, 114-117. 

Radical Party and Social Reform 181 

Jacob Wehe at Leipheim, Hubmaier at Waldshut, Waibel 
at Kempten, inveighed against the oppression of the masses 
and actively abetted their demands for redress. Many of 
the emancipated monks took the same side and preached the 
necessity of a social as well as a religious Reformation. 

Only the extreme left wing of this more advanced section 
of the reform party went the length of advocating a blood-red 
revolution and the forcible inauguration of the kingdom of 
God. This extreme left had started into existence with 
the prophets of Zwickau, whom Luther had repudiated from 
the first. Its leading spirit was Thomas Miinzer, who had 
been expelled from Zwickau in the spring of 1521, and had 
actively pursued his vocation in various places as the divinely 
commissioned emissary of the Holy Spirit. 44 He was no 
mere fanatical windbag who, like the ordinary religious 
ranter, claimed for presumptuous ignorance a monopoly of 
divine wisdom. Like Stiibner he had had the benefit of a 
university education at Leipzig and Frankfurt, and like 
Luther himself, whose acquaintance he made at the Leipzig 
Disputation and who in 1520 recommended him for a pastoral 
charge at Zwickau, 45 he had been an earnest seeker after 
truth in his own independent fashion. 46 At Zwickau he 
still appears as his disciple, and started preaching against 
the monks and priestly ecclesiastical usages and dogmas 
at first with the approval of the Town Council and the 
applause of the townsfolk. 47 From this beginning he quickly 

44 On Munzer, see Seidemann, " Thomas Munzer " (1842) ; Enders, 
" Flugschriften," x. (Niemeyer); Forstemann, " Neues Urkundenbuch 
zur Geschichte der evangehschen Kirchenreformation " (1842) ; Kolde, 
art. " Munzer" in Herzog-Hauck, " Encyclopadie " (1903); Nathusius, 
" Christlich-Sociale Ideen der Reformationszeit " (1897). The latest 
works on Munzer are those of Ernst Bloch, " Th. Munzer, Theologe der 
Revolution " (1922) ; Zimmermann, " Thomas Munzer," a moderate and 
careful biography (1925) ; Hohl, " Luther und die Schwarmer, Gesam- 
melte Aufsatze " (1927), a detailed exposition of his teaching ; Boehmer, 
" Studien zu Th. Muntzer " (1922), a valuable critical review ; Walter, 
%< Thomas Munzer et les Luttes Sociales " (192?)- 

45 Enders, ii. 404. 

4i On his remarkable learning and keenness for study, see Boehmer, 
" Studien zu Thomas Muntzer," 15-17* 

47 See his letter to Luther, Enders, ii. 435-438, 1 3& J ul Y 

i8a Luther and the Reformation 

developed into the stormy petrel of the evangelical move- 
ment and alienated the Lutherans of the town as well as 
the orthodox clergy by his aggressive diatribes on behalf of 
a purely spiritual religion. " A man born for schism and 
heresies/' wrote Egranus, the reforming priest of St Mary's, 
who was an enthusiastic disciple of Erasmus, and whose locum 
tenens he had been before being transferred to the parish 
of St Catherine. 48 From the same aggrieved source we 
learn that, with the aid of laymen like the master weaver, 
Nicolas Storch, and Stiibner, he had gathered round him 
a zealous following which professed to be the true spiritual 
Church, and appealed to the inner Word as a higher authority 
than the Scriptures. 49 Like Luther, he had studied Tauler 
and the mediaeval mystics and assimilated their teaching 
on the inner light and the direct inspiration of the Spirit, 
who makes use of laymen, in preference to the clergy, as His 
mouthpiece. He now discarded the Lutheran doctrine of 
the supreme authority of the written Word for that of the 
direct inspiration of the believer in communion with God. 
With this direct revelation by means of dreams and ecstatic 
visions he combined the sectarian tendency to see in his 
faction the elect people of God, from which all unbelievers 
are to be excluded, by force if need be. His aggressive 
spiritualism became so subversive of public order that the 
Town Council determined to take proceedings against him 
in April 1521. Rather than face the ordeal, he fled from 
Zwickau and, along with Stiibner, betook himself to Prague 
in the hope of finding in the land of John Hus and the 
Taborites a more fertile soil for his subjective message. 
On the 26th May he proclaimed himself in a public manifesto 
the prophet of the living Word which God inspires in the 
heart of the elect, and which is not confined to the Scripture, 
but, as in the prophets of old, continues to illuminate the 
pious soul throughout the ages. To this living Word the 
Church and the Biblical theologians (Luther and his col- 
leagues are meant, though not named) have been impervious, 
and the time has come to revive it in the new Church of the 

48 Enders, iii. 395. Egranus to Luther, June 1522. 

49 Ibid., iii. 395. Qui neque amicorum consiliis, neque scripturarum 
autoritatibus obsequatur, sed suo innixus spiritui meras factiones excitat. 

Radical Party and Social Reform 183 

elect which, since the days of the Apostles and their disciples, 
has been corrupted by the spiritual adultery of the clerical 
order. 60 The project of the new prophet was nipped in the 
bud by the Town Council, which placed him under police 
supervision. Thus baffled, though not disillusioned, he left 
Bohemia, and during the next two years wandered about 
Thuringia in search of a new sphere. In the course of these 
wanderings he seems to have visited Wittenberg 51 and 
consorted with Carlstadt, if not with Luther. Ultimately 
he turned up at Alstedt, near Eisleben, in the spring of 1523, 
and was installed by the Town Council as preacher in the 
Church of St John. Here he introduced a reformed order 
of worship in the vernacular on scriptural and evangelical 
lines, in spite of his depreciation of the written Word. 52 
It is a remarkable production from both the literary and the 
devotional point of view. Had he confined himself to the 
religious sphere, he might have rendered material service 
to the Reformation as the exponent of a less dogmatic and 
more experimental Christianity than Luther evolved. In 
a conciliatory letter to the Reformer on the gth July, in 
answer to one written apparently in a friendly spirit (Luther's 
letter has not been preserved), he emphasises the conformity 
of the will to that of the crucified Christ through suffering 
and conflict, and the testimony of his indwelling spirit as 
the test of truth and true piety. Whilst rating highly 
scriptural revelation, with which all revelation must be in 
conformity, he recognises the fact of a continued revelation 
in communion with the living God, disclaims responsibility 
for the opinions or professions of the prophets, maintains an 
independent attitude, and complains of the calumnies of 
Egranus and other enemies. He claims the right, on the 
ground of John xvi. 13, " When the spirit of truth is come 
he shall guide you into all truth," to believe in a personal 

50 The manifesto is given by Zimmermann, " Thomas Munzer," 58 f., 
and by Walter, " Th. Munzer," 342 f. ; Walter differs from Zimmer- 
mann in dating it ist Nov. 1521, " Th. Munzer," 80. 

61 Luther (" Werke," xv. 214) speaks of Munzer's visiting Witten- 
berg, and implies that he had had an interview with him, which Munzer 
subsequently denied. 

" The three liturgies composed by him are given by Sehling, i. 472 f . 

184 Luther and the Reformation 

revelation, and evidently will not tie himself down to a 
dogmatic Biblicism, though he adopts a deferential tone 
towards Luther personally. 63 There was more reason and 
even more religion in his contention than the Reformer and 
his fellow-theologians were able or fitted to perceive. On 
Luther it made the worst possible impression. " Miinzer," 
he wrote to Spalatin on the 3rd August 1523, " must be either 
mad or drunk." M The idea of a progressive revelation in 
accordance with the intellectual development and the 
religious experience of the believer was, nevertheless, not in 
itself either irreligious or unevangelical. The danger lay in the 
tendency, in ill-balanced minds like Miinzer and the prophets, 
to self-deception and extravagant fancy, especially if it took 
the form of a fantastic and fanatic apocalyptic. Luther's 
test of a fresh revelation was, as we have seen, a miracle or 
other incontestable proof of divine authentication. Dreams 
and ecstatic visions were not for him necessarily reliable 
credentials of divine illumination. The miracle test is a 
narrow and artificial one, as a Savonarola had found to his 
cost. In any case, revelation, whether new or old, must be 
in accord with the rational and moral nature of man, especi- 
ally if it would insist in intruding itself into the social and 
political as well as the purely spiritual sphere. It is only 
too evident from the sequel of his stormy and tragic activity 
that, in preaching the repression of the wicked by the sword 
and the violent reconstruction of the Church and society, 
Miinzer was all too prone to substitute his own fanatic 
fancies for the Decalogue and the ethical teaching of the 
New Testament as the standard of right and wrong. Whilst 
insisting, and doubtless sincerely insisting, that the individual 
Christian life should be the concrete expression of the 
indwelling Christ, he did appeal to the lower passions of the 
masses and incite them to indiscriminate violence and 
outrage against " the ungodly," as the indispensable pre- 
liminary of the establishment of the new Church, the kingdom 
of God's elect on earth. 

The apologetic and moderate tone of the letter to Luther 
evidently did not express the real spirit of the man or the 

" Enders f iv. 169-172. Ibid., iv. 201 ; cf. 359. 

Radical Party and Social Reform 185 

whole content of his teaching. There can be no doubt 
that, as the two effusions 66 which he issued from the press 
early in 1524 show, he was conscious of a deep rift between 
his teaching and that of the Wittenberg Reformer, though 
he had learned much from him as well as from his own 
independent reflection. Whilst Luther recognised no 
supreme authority in religion outside the written Word, 
Miinzer found this authority in the inner Word by which 
God continues to inspire the individual believer, as in the 
case of the prophets of old. Revelation is not confined 
to the past, but continues in the immanent Word uttering 
itself in the elect soul attuned to God. In virtue of this 
immanent revelation the peasant may know more of God 
than the most learned theologian, though it is necessary to 
guard against deception. For Luther justifying faith, 
operated by the Spirit through the written Word, or promise 
of God in the Gospel, is the sole ground and medium of 
salvation. For Miinzer the faith that saves is the fruit of 
the direct revelation of God in the soul, not a mere second- 
hand apprehension of the teaching of Scripture. The 
Scripture is, indeed, " a testimony to faith." But it is not 
the source or the inspiration of saving faith which is due 
solely to the direct working of the Spirit in the troubled 
heart that waits for the divine voice within to deliver it from 
the misery and despair of an accusing conscience. Moreover, 
such a "borrowed faith" as Luther proclaims as the sole 
requisite of justification, to the exclusion of works, tends to 
make the way of salvation too easy and leads the believer, in 
self-deception and self-gratification, to shun the way of the 
Cross. By stressing the Augustinian doctrine of the im- 
potence of the will, Luther deadens the moral sense and 
kills individual initiative. Again, for Luther the Church 
is the invisible communion of the saints, and the use of force 
in the interest of this spiritual communion is absolutely 
inadmissible. For Miinzer it is the visible community of the 
elect, strictly separated from and aggressively antagonistic 
to the world, and the reign of the saints on earth which it 

56 " Protestation oder Empietung Tome Muntzer's," 1524 (copy in 
Edinburgh University Collection of Reformation pamphlets), and 
" Von dem getichten Glawben," 1524* 

1 86 Luther and the Reformation 

is the object of this community to realise can only be estab- 
lished by the repression or the destruction of the wicked. 
In addition, infant baptism, which Luther would retain as 
a divine ordinance, is emphatically rejected as a qualifica- 
tion for membership of the elect community, though 
Miinzer does not advocate adult baptism, like some of his 
fellow-prophets, and only insists that children should 
only be baptized after instruction in the true faith as he 
interprets it. 

In view of this radical divergence in important respects 
from Luther's teaching, the specious tone of the letter of 
the Qth July 1523 is, to say the least, misleading. In spite 
of some affinities, it is evident that the Reformer of Alstedt 
had, in his revulsion from the mediaeval Church, far outrun 
the Reformer of Wittenberg in his programme of a new order 
in Church and State, founded on the democratic regime of 
the elect people of God. At Alstedt he set himself to 
foment and organise a thoroughgoing revolution of both, 
and in so doing not only denounced Luther's teaching, but pro- 
claimed the gospel of violence by which alone the apocalyptic 
kingdom of God could be established on earth. This gospel 
he did not hesitate to preach in the presence of the Elector 
himself and his brother, Duke John, in the castle of Alstedt, 
on the i3th July 1524, in a sermon in which he inveighed 
against the Biblical theologians (Luther and his colleagues) 
and summoned the Saxon princes to draw the sword on behalf 
of the true faith against its ungodly enemies in Church and 
State. " The ungodly have no right to live farther than the 
elect shall accord them." 56 

This violent sermon, to which the Elector and his brother 
listened with remarkable tolerance, brought Luther into the 
arena with a " Missive to the Princes on the Revolutionary 
Spirit/' 57 For Luther, Miinzer is clearly one of those false 
prophets whom Satan has inspired to distort the Gospel, 

" Summaries of the sermon are given by Zimmermann (" Miinzer," 
105 f.) and Walter (" Munzer," 126-127), from the version of it which 
Miinzer published. 

57 " Werke," xv. 210 f. Ein Brief an die Ffirsten zu Sachsen von 
dem aufruhrischen Geist. Spalatin had sent the sermon to Luther, 
Enders, iv. 371. 

Radical Party and Social Reform 187 

and who, like the Pope, have given rise to sects and heresies 
throughout the centuries. He utterly rejects a superior 
spiritual illumination which preaches the use of the sword 
in the service of reform, the establishment of the kingdom 
of God on earth by murderous violence. Did not Christ say 
in the presence of Pilate, " My kingdom is not of this world " ? 
The spirit that inspires these fanatic visionaries to burn 
chapels, as at Mallenbach, is not of God, but of the devil. 
The test of the possession of the Holy Spirit is not spiritual 
arrogance and mob violence, but love, joy, peace, long- 
suffering, meekness, as Paul teaches, and the keeping of 
God's commandments. At the same time, he would not 
deny them the right of their opinions. Let them preach, 
argue, agitate without stint on behalf of the truth. The 
truth will know how to take care of itself. Controversy, 
conflict of wits in matters theological are inevitable, nay 
indispensable. " Let them, therefore, preach as much as 
they like and against whom they please. Sects there ever 
will be, for the Word of God must take the field and fight. 
. . . Allow opposing minds to draw and hit out on each 
other. If some should be misled, well, this is the way of 
war. Where there is strife, battle, some must fall and suffer 
wounds in the melee. He that fights best will gain the 
crown/' 58 Luther is still the champion of the free exchange 
of opinion in the cause of truth, and Miinzer certainly did 
not owe to him his doctrine of an armed crusade on behalf 
of his apocalyptic kingdom of God. His appeal to force 
in the repression of error is merely that of the mediaeval 
Church applied from a different angle and for a different 
end. But for Luther there is a limit beyond which tolerance 
may not go. If the disputants will not be content to fight 
with arguments on behalf of their opinions and will needs 
have recourse to blows, then the princes must intervene 
and forbid them their dominions, whether they are Lutherans 
or non-Lutherans. " For we, who concern ourselves with 
the Word of God, may not strive with our fists. We are 
engaged in a spiritual strife, the object of which is to wrest 
heart and soul from the dominion of the devil. To preach 

8 " Werke," xv. 218-219. 

1 88 Luther and the Reformation 

and suffer is our office, not to strike blows and defend our- 
selves by force. Christ and His Apostles did not burn 
churches and throw down images. They won hearts by 
means of God's Word, and thereby the temples and images 
fell of themselves/ 1 

In consequence of this missive and the excesses committed 
by his adherents, Miinzer was summoned to a hearing at 
Weimar on the 1st August 1524. A week later he deemed 
it prudent to forestall a second inquisition by slipping out of 
Alstedt and betaJdng himself to the free imperial city of 
Miihlhausen, where the ex-monk Pfeiffer was preaching the 
revolutionary crusade. Luther again intervened with a 
warning to the Town Council, 60 which contributed to bring 
about the banishment of both in the end of September. 
Thence Miinzer betook himself to Niirnberg and south-west 
Germany, preaching and writing against Luther in the most 
violent terms as he went.* His agitation in behalf of his 
fanatic gospel found little favour with the more moderate 
preachers of a social Reformation in South Germany, and 
it was only in Thuringia, after his return to Miihlhausen at 
the beginning of 1525, that he ultimately succeeded in 
impressing to a certain extent * his fanaticism on the local 
revolutionary movement. 


This movement began in June 1524 at Stiihlingen in the 
south-west corner of the Black Forest in the rising of the 
peasants of the Count of Lupfen, in protest against the com- 
mand of the countess to gather strawberries and snail shells in 
harvest time. This particular grievance appears to have been 

" Werke," xv. 219. o Md., xy. 23 8 f. 

" Particularly in his " Schutzrede und Antwort auf das Geistlose und 
sanft liebende Fleisch zu Wittenberg." Given by Enders, No. 118 of 
Niemeyer's " Neudrucke," and in his " Ausgetriickte emplossrog des 
falschen Glaubens." A summary of both is given by Walter, "Th. 
Munzer," 350 f. 

** As Zimmennann has shown, his influence on the movement, even 
in Thuringia, has been considerably overestimated. 

The Rising of the Peasants 189 

merely the pretext for a revolt against the whole agrarian 
system, and in a number of articles the peasants proceeded 
to arraign this system. They complain of the seizure by 
the lord of the common lands, his exclusive use of the forests 
and streams, forced labour, which interferes with the proper 
cultivation of the peasant's holding, and other servile 
burdens, the strict preservation of game which destroys the 
crops, the arbitrary administration of justice, etc. From 
these articles it appears that the peasant is the victim of 
intolerable oppression and injustice which he is determined 
forcibly to amend or end, and for this purpose the people 
of the Hegau and Kletgau in August 1524 band themselves 
together over 1,000 strong under the agitator and ex-lands- 
knecht, Hans Miiller of Bulgenbach, and march to Waldshut, 
which Hubmaier had won for the Reformation, and which 
was in revolt against the Austrian Government. The Wald- 
shutters welcomed the rustic band as brothers in a common 
cause, though the peasants were apparently not adherents 
of the religious Reformation, and the articles are concerned 
with the rectification of purely social abuses. The association 
of the two movements is, however, symptomatic of the trend 
towards the Christian Brotherhood into which the rising, 
as it widened its area, was to develop in South Germany. 
Equally significant the alliance of the agrarian with the 
discontented element in the towns, which was also to become 
a distinctive feature of the movement. 

From this small beginning it spread during the autumn 
and winter of 1524-25 by means of agitation and organisa- 
tion over the whole of Upper Swabia and Wiirtemberg, as 
far east as Memmingen and Kempten. The effort of the 
Swabian League to temporise by means of negotiation failed, 
and even the repulse of the exiled Duke of Wiirtemberg, who 
sought to turn the movement to account in an attempt 
to recover his duchy, did not overawe the insurrectionary 
spirit. Duke Ulrich was compelled to halt in his march on 
Stuttgart against the forces of the League by the desertion 
of his Swiss mercenaries and seek refuge in his castle of 
Hohentwiel (March 1525). The insurrection nevertheless 
continued to extend. George Truchsess, Count of Waldburg, 
the League's general, might rout a peasant band here and 

190 Luther and the Reformation 

there, which ran away at the first shot, and negotiate with 
others. The attempt to localise the outbreak was hopeless, 
and the forces of the League were helpless to cope with the 
ever-swelling numbers of the insurgents. The war in Italy 
had drained the country of troops, and after the victory of 
Pavia large numbers of the returning landsknechts would 
not fight against the peasant class, to which they belonged, 
or joined their ranks. Moreover, it was no longer a question 
of rebellion in Swabia. By the spring of 1525 the revolution 
had spread north, east, west northwards into Franconia, 
the Odenwald, the Neckerwald, Hesse, the Rheingau, 
Thuringia, Saxony, Brunswick ; westwards from the Black 
Forest and Baden into Alsace-Lorraine, Treves ; eastwards 
into Salzburg, the Tyrol, Carinthia, Styria. The proletariat 
in the towns as well as the peasants in the country were 
seized by the revolutionary contagion. Two-thirds of the 
empire were ablaze with revolution. Verily, Luther's 
denunciation of the judgment of God against the princes and 
the magnates had been fulfilled with a terrible swiftness. 

It is difficult to generalise a movement so widespread 
as this. We might call it a social revolution based on the 
" divine justice " (the popular phrase) as revealed in the Bible, 
and this description applies at least to some of the peasant 
programmes, especially to the most famous of them, the 
Twelve Articles adopted by the peasants of Upper Swabia 
at Memmingen in March 1525 and very widely accepted. 
Their authorship is unknown, but both Schappeler and 
Hubmaier were credited with having a hand in them. 63 
The influence of the religious Reformation is unmistakable 
in the appeal to the Word of God, " the New Gospel/' as 
the arbiter of social justice, and in the consciousness of the 
rights of the individual Christian. The disclaimer of any 
intention to overthrow all authority secular and spiritual 
and establish a pure anarchy, which is a slander of their 

11 See the contemporary testimonies in Boehmer, " Urkunden zur 
Geschichte des Bauernkrieges," Kleine Texte, Nos. 50-51, 11-16 (1910). 
See also the summary of the discussion on the question in Schapiro, 
" Social Reform and the Reformation," 132 f. ; W. Mau, " Bait. 
Hubmaier," 49 f. (1912) ; Karl Sachsse, " B. Hubmaier als Theologe," 
106-109 (I9H); Stolze, "Bauernkrieg und Reformation, " 82. 

The Rising of the Peasants 191 

Antichristian adversaries, is also in keeping with the profession 
of the more moderate democratic preachers of the type of 
a Schappeler. The Gospel, the peasants insist, is no cause 
of rebellion, since it teaches only love, peace, patience, and 
unity, and the aim of the articles is to ensure " that men 
should hear the Gospel and live in accordance therewith/* 
They are meant, in a word, to establish the ideal of a Christian 
Brotherhood in place of an intolerable social order. To this 
end the first article demands for the community, in accordance 
with certain scriptural passages, the right to choose its 
pastor, who shall preach the Gospel without any addition of 
man, and, in case of unseemly life, to displace him. They 
are willing, according to the second article, to pay the great 
tithe of corn, which has the sanction of the Old Testament, 
for the support of the preacher of the pure Gospel and of the 
poor, and to devote any residue to the public service, in 
case of war, in lieu of a general tax. The small tithe (of a 
head of cattle) they will on no account pay to any lord, 
spiritual or temporal, " since God has created the beast for 
the free use of man." (More texts.) The third article declares 
their determination to submit no longer to villainage, which 
is incompatible with the Gospel. They do not disclaim 
obedience to lawful authority, but as Christians they are 
free, and free they will be. (More scriptural references.) 
Further, by the fourth article, they are entitled, according 
to the Word of God, to their share of game and fish, for 
God hath given a right to all men to the fowls of the air and 
the fish in the water. Anyone who cannot prove the 
purchase of " a water " must restore it to the community, 
and the excessive preservation of game by the lord must 
cease. (See Gen. i., Cor. x., etc.) Similarly in regard to 
the woods, the fifth article declares them forfeited to the 
people in the case of lords who have not purchased them. 
In the sixth article they insist on the diminution of the 
oppressive services demanded by the lords (see Rom. x.), 
and in the seventh, the lord shall observe the ancient agree- 
ments with the peasants, shall not oppress them, suad shall 
not require them to render service at an unseasonable time, 
and even then shall pay them a fair price for this labour. 
(References to Luke's Gospel and the Epistle to the Thessa- 

192 Luther and the Reformation 

lonians.) The eighth demands a fair rent for their holdings 
(Matt, x.) ; the ninth protests against unjust punishments, 
which contravene the ancient written law (four texts quoted) ; 
the tenth against the usurpation of the common lands, which 
they will take back in all cases where they have not been 
honestly purchased. The eleventh denounces the death due 
(heriot) as an unmerciful oppression of widows and orphans, 
and demands its entire abolition. (More texts.) Finally, 
they agree to resile from any of these articles that may be 
found contrary to God's Word. 64 

The moderate, persuasive tone of these articles is surpris- 
ing. The peasants will not use force except in the last resort 
and against glaring abuses, which were really indefensible 
from the Christian standpoint. They are ready to reason 
and compromise in a brotherly spirit. Brotherly love and 
the Gospel are to decide in all contentious matters. Arbitra- 
tion in a Christian spirit is the method they would fain apply. 
The method is admirable. But it was one which the 
privileged party was not minded to adopt where vested 
interests clashed with demands based on ideal justice, 
Christian equity, and in organising to enforce these demands, 
if need be, the peasants were taking the only course that could 
bring about their practical realisation. Unfortunately, in 
view of the bitter spirit begotten by oppression and the 
antagonism of the dominant class to a revolution based on 
professedly Christian principles, there was little chance that 
the Christian spirit of the articles would effectively avail 
to restrain the rising flood of popular passion, now that it 
had come to an actual trial of strength between the two 
parties. It would simply be a struggle conducted with all 
the expedients of pillage and plunder of mediaeval warfare. 

Moreover, the Christian spirit is by no means so marked 
in other revolutionary programmes. They are less scriptural 
and more aggressive in tone and mingle political demands 
with the redress of social grievances. The peasants of 
Alsace-Lorraine, for instance, demand the preaching of the 
true Gospel. But they also insist on their rights as men 
and wfll amply take back the common lands without 

Mackinnon, " History of Modern Liberty," ii. 80. 

The Rising of the Peasants 193 

discussion. They have political as well as social aspirations. 
They are ready to own allegiance to the Emperor, but they 
will not recognise any other authority that is not in accord 
with the people's will. The men of Tyrol, as voiced by 
Michael Gaismeyr, similarly demand, in addition to the pure 
Gospel and the right to elect their pastors, the establishment 
of popular government under the central authority of the 
Archduke Ferdinand, the secularisation of ecclesiastical 
property, the abolition of feudal institutions, secular and 
ecclesiastical, and equal law and justice without distinction 
of class. In a subsequent programme (June 1526) these 
demands are amplified in a more radical direction, including 
the uprooting of all godless persons who oppress the people 
and hinder the general welfare In other programmes all 
hereditary authority is abolished, and the idea of a republic 
based on the sovereignty of the people, along with complete 
social equality and the right to deprive and depose all rulers 
and superiors, finds decisive expression. 85 In contrast to 
such passionate appeals on behalf of the sovereignty of the 
people is the statesmanlike programme of imperial reform 
on the basis of existing institutions, formulated by Hipler 
and Weigant, who adapted the so-called " Reformation of 
Kaiser Frederick III/' to this end, and strove to organise 
and direct the revolution by means of a central committee 
at Heilbronn. It is couched in the spirit of the Twelve 
Articles. But it is more constructive and its scope is much 
wider. Whilst it demands the secularisation of ecclesiastical 
property for the common good, it allows compensation for 
loss incurred thereby. Here, too, the community shall choose 
and support its pastor, who shall concern himself solely 
with his spiritual functions. The old social hierarchy of 
princes, counts, knights, squires, burghers, and peasants 
shall remain. But the higher classes shall cease to oppress 
the people and act towards them in a Christian spirit, shall 
lose their feudal jurisdiction, and become imperial officials, 
administrators of the central imperial authority. All leagues 
within the empire shall cease, and equal law and justice be 
meted out in accordance with natural right. To this end a 

See " History of Modern Liberty," ii. 83 f. 

194 Luther and the Reformation 

series of courts, from the Supreme Imperial Court (Reichs- 
kammevgerickf) downwards to the Court of the Rural Commune, 
shall be established, and each class shall have its share in the 
administration of justice. From these courts doctors of the 
Roman law shall be excluded and be relegated to the lecture 
rooms of the universities. Taxes, tolls, and other oppressive 
exactions shall cease. The Emperor only shall be entitled 
to levy a general tax every ten years, and the oppressive 
monopolist companies be abolished. Finally, all classes in 
this ref onned empire are to live in brotherly love and conform 
to the law of God and nature as well as the law of the land. 

Finally, there is the theocratic revolution which Miinzer 
was striving to realise iii Thuringia from his centre at 
Miihlhausen. Its root idea is a fantastic communism 66 
to be established by the sword. Its redeeming feature is 
the undoubted sympathy with the common man which 
animates it, but which could only end in the establishment of 
the worst form of tyranny that of the so-called theocracy 
of the elect, the kingdom of God based on fanaticism and 

In most of these programmes the influence of the religious 
Reformation is unmistakable. The Lutheran movement had 
evidently taten a far-reaching grip of the people in Southern 
and Central Germany. The appeal to " the Gospel " as 
the standard of religious, political, and social institutions, 
which makes itself so generally heard, is clearly a reflection 
of the response of the common man over a large part of the 
empire to his religioiis message. In this message the common 
man has evidently seen the dawn of a new era in Church, in 
State, and in society. For him the Reformation is not 
merely a new theology and a reformed Church in accordance 
therewith. It involved a new social system in the spirit of 
" the Gospel," as Luther had rediscovered it, and warranted 
him in applying, if need be, by force the right of revolt 
against an unchristian regime, which was a principle 
of mediaeval political thought, if not of Luther himself. The 

i Certain of his utterances in his sermons and letters are susceptible 
of a communist interpretation, Walter questions this interpretation 
and concludes that he had not definitely worked out a communist recon- 
struction of society, " Th. Munzer," 359 f. 

The Rising of the Peasants 195 

use of the term in these programmes may not necessarily 
always denote the Gospel in the evangelical sense, or invari- 
ably imply that those who appealed to the Gospel on behalf 
of " the justice of God " were confirmed followers of Luther. 
The general antagonism to the secularised Church, which 
long before his appearance had characterised the pre- 
Reformation revolutionary movement, is sufficient to remind 
us that such antagonism was not necessarily an indication 
of adherence to the evangelical movement. The common 
man had appealed to the Gospel as the arbiter of social 
justice before Luther's advent, and this appeal could quite 
well consort with adherence to the Gospel in the traditional 
sense. Moreover, the specific reforms based on the Gospel 
were largely a reflection of those which are found in the 
Reformation programmes of the fifteenth century. The 
peasant Rising was undoubtedly inspired by mundane as 
well as religious motives, and the generally accepted view 
is that the former were primary, the latter only secondary. 
At the same time, it is evident that the appeal to the Gospel, 
especially in the Twelve Articles, which, with local variations, 
were very widely accepted as the common aspiration of the 
peasant bands, was inspired by Luther's teaching, as inter- 
preted by the more advanced preachers. It is not without 
significance in this connection that the insurgents submitted 
these Articles for his judgment, in the belief that they em- 
bodied the practical implications of his teaching. Moreover, 
there is ground for the conclusion that the Rising was an 
attempt to frustrate the reaction against this teaching 
which the South German princes, secular and ecclesiastical, 
had united at Ratisbon to bring about in their respective 
territories, and which was already finding expression in the 
persecution of the evangelical preachers and the adherents 
of Luther in Austria and Bavaria. Recent writers like 
Stolze 67 find, in fact, the main explanation of the actual 
insurrectionary outbreak on a large scale in the widespread 
determination of the common man to seize the opportunity 
of the war between the Emperor and Francis I. to defend and 
vindicate a movement with which he identified his own 

7 " Bauernkrieg 1 und Reformation,*' 46 f. (1926). 

196 Luther and the Reformation 

cause, and in the triumph of which he saw the realisation 
of his own aspirations. The reasoning which leads to this 
conclusion may not always be convincing, especially in cases 
where direct evidence is lacking. The striving for social and 
political reformation was too deep-seated, too well founded 
on the grievances of the common man against the oppressive 
feudal system in Church and State to be a mere appendage 
of the defence of the religious Reformation. Nevertheless the 
evangelical influence was a very real factor in the moulding 
of the insurrectionary movement. The appeal to the Gospel 
in the Twelve Articles was no mere tag of the party and 
class programme, but a serious attempt to achieve a new 
social and religious order in the spirit of the new teaching, 
and is by no means to be identified with the crude fanaticism 
of a Miinzer, whose influence was very limited, and who 
cannot fairly be taken as the type of the responsible peasant 

Arbitration in the spirit of the Twelve Articles proving 
visionary, the movement in the spring and summer of 1525 
took the form of a trial of strength between the opposing 
forces. The peasant bands conducted the revolutionary 
campaign in accordance with the predatory warfare of the 
time. In those days burning and plundering were accounted 
fair tactics even in ordinary warfare. Not only had the 
robber knight set them a bad example. Kings and their 
generals, and even high Church dignitaries at times, had 
committed ravage and arson in wartime all through the 
Middle Ages as a matter of course. That the peasant bands 
should do likewise is not, therefore, surprising in view of 
the military practice of the age. If emperor, kings, princes, 
and lords systematically indulged in this brutal practice in 
regular warfare, it is hardly to be expected that the peasants 
would observe a higher standard in their irregular operations, 
though it certainly is not obvious that their mode of 
operations could be made to tally with the divine justice 
based on the Gospel which they professed to vindicate. 
Specially noteworthy is the violence directed against the 
property of ecclesiastical lords, against which the attack 
was, in fact, in the first instance levelled. The peasant 
bands sacked monasteries and even churches before directing 

The Rising of the Peasants 197 

their fury against the castles of the lords who actively 
opposed the movement or refused to yield their demands. 
They smashed images and relics, burned Mass books and the 
tomes of the schoolmen, and even spilled the sacramental 
wine, as emblems of Antichrist. They thus drastically gave 
vent not only to their instinct for plunder, but to their 
contempt for a feudalised and secularised Church which had 
fatally neglected the real moral education of the people, 
whilst tempting its covetousness by its overgrown wealth, 
too often scandalously misapplied. Hatred of the Church 
and its degenerate hierarchy is, in fact, a notable feature of 
the Rising. 

On the whole, however, apart from the actual fighting, 
there was comparatively little wanton bloodshed. 68 In 
this respect the German Rising of 1525 compares favourably 
with the French Jacquerie of 1358 or the Rising of the 
English peasants in 1381, for instance. The Weinsberg 
tragedy was exceptional. The butchery of Count Helfenstein 
and nearly a score of knights in the presence of the countess, 
a natural daughter of the Emperor Maximilian, was the work 
of the cutthroat Jacklein Rohrbach, and was perpetrated 
against the orders of his superior, George Metzler. It was 
a ruffianly deed. But its perpetrators had been exasperated 
by the slaughter of one of the peasant bands under the walls 
of Weinsberg and other outrages on the part of the count. 
As a rule the peasants were content to make the lords who 
fell into their hands swear the Articles and enrol themselves 
in the Brotherhood. They were quite willing to accept 
their superiors as their enforced allies and even as leaders, 
and among the chiefs of these rustic bands (Haufen) were 
men of knightly rank like Florian Geyer of Franconia, 
Stephan Menzingen of Swabia, and Gotz von Berlichingen, 
who filled the part of generalissimo of the united peasant 
bands at Heilbronn. 69 

88 On this point see Stolze, " Bauernkrieg und Reformation," 91-92. 
Even in Thuringia under the auspices of the fanatic Mimzer, murder was 
rarely perpetrated* Walter, " Th. Miinzer," 288. 

* Mackinnon, " History of Modern Liberty," ii. 91-92. 

198 Luther and the Reformation 


Among those who were horrified by the doings of the 
peasants was Luther. In August 1524 he had, by direction 
of the Elector and Duke John, undertaken a visitation of 
Thuringia for the purpose of counteracting the activity of 
Mtinzer and of Carlstadt, who had left Wittenberg in the 
previous year and established himself as preacher at Orla- 
munde, had renewed his crusade in favour of a more radical 
reformation, and cleared the parish church of images and 
altars. Carlstadt had, moreover, by this time discarded the 
Lutheran doctrines of the Lord's Supper and Baptism, and 
approximated Miinzer's view of individual spiritual illumina- 
tion, whilst rejecting his appeal to the sword. At an 
interview with Luther at Jena on the 22nd August, he 
rebutted his charge of complicity with Miinzer's rabid gospel 
and formally accepted Luther's challenge to a theological 
duel by means of the press on the points at issue between 
them. 70 In the course of a warm discussion at Orlamunde 
on the 24th, his adherents argued against the Reformer with no 
little force in defence of their action in removing the images. 71 
The discussion ended in a rupture over this burning question, 
and this rupture led to the expulsion from Saxony of Carlstadt 
(i8th September) who, like Miinzer, betook himself to South 
Germany, denouncing Luther by the way, 72 and is ultimately 
found taking an active part on the popular side at Rothenburg 
on the Tauber. Luther henceforth regarded him, with more 
prejudice than reason, as the incarnation of Satan. 
" Carlstadt," wrote he to Spalatin, on the isth September, 
" is at last given over to a reprobate mind, so that I despair 
of his return. . . . He is more hostile to me and ours than 
any opponent I have yet met. There is not a single devil 
that has not taken possession of him." ra In response to a 
number of tracts against his doctrine of the Lord's Supper, 
which this embodiment of all the devils issued from Basle 

" " Werke," xv. 334 f. 

71 Ibid*> xv. 341 f . ; cf. the notices of this discussion given by Luther 
in his philippic, Wider die himmlischen Propheten, " Werke," xviii. 
%$-%4i passim. 

See Enders, v. 39, 42, 82, 153. Ibid., v. 23 ; cf. 102. 

Luther and the Rising 199 

in December, he hurled his most violent philippic, " Against 
the Heavenly Prophets, concerning Images and the 
Sacrament," 74 in January 1525. 

In this embittered mood the fact that the more advanced 
reformers were joining Carlstadt in playing an active part 
on the democratic side doubtless contributed to prejudice 
him 75 against the cause of the peasants, who sought his 
judgment on the Twelve Articles. 76 This judgment he gave 
in " An Exhortation to Peace in Response to the Twelve 
Articles of the Peasants in Swabia" 77 (April 1525). He 
expresses his satisfaction that they are willing, according to 
the twelfth article, to receive instruction and be guided 
by the Word, and whilst apprehensive of coming catastrophe, 
still hopes for a peaceful accommodation. To this end he 
addresses himself to both parties. His attitude is conditioned 
to a certain extent by the fact that many of the princes 
spiritual and temporal were opposed to the Reformation 
and were already (after the second Diet at Niirnberg) striving 
to repress it in accordance with the Edict of Worms, and that 
the radical preachers, whom he detested, were identifying 
themselves with the revolutionary movement. Hence the 
pointed denunciation of the tyranny of the princes and 
lords, and of the false teaching of these preachers in support 
of a social as well as a religious revolution. He lays the 
responsibility for the rising on the princes and lords, and 
especially on " the blind bishops and mad priests and monks " 
who rage against the Gospel. Moreover, they harass and 
harry the common man to such a degree that he neither 
can nor may longer endure it. Now the sword is at their 
throats, and their blind confidence and pride will only break 
their own necks in spite of repeated warnings. " I have 
often enough proclaimed it to you, Beware of the text, 
Effundit contemptum super principes." 78 This is what they 
have been striving for, and this the signs and wonders in 
heaven and on earth have been foretelling. It is the day of 
the wrath of God. He it is who so works that the people 
will no longer bear their fury. They must change their ways 

" Werke," xviii. 62 f. " " Werke," xviii. 279 f. 

75 See, for instance, Enders, v. 153. 7a Ibid., xviii, 294. 
7 Boehmer, " Urkunden," 22-24. 

200 Luther and the Reformation 

and cede to God's Word, if not willingly, then in virtue of 

force and ruin. " It is not the peasants, dear sirs, that 

stand against you, but God Himself to punish your 

madness." 79 Some have said that they will root out 

Luther's teaching. Let them have a care lest they become 

the prophets of their own undoing. This, say they further, 

is the fruit of his teaching, forgetful that he has preached 

against revolt and exhorted to obedience to their tyrannical 

and oppressive government. They confound his teaching 

with that of " the murder prophets," who have been busy 

among the people and whom he has opposed might and 

main. He does not desire merely to inspire them with fear 

of the peasants. They are to fear God, whose judgment is 

come upon them. He himself might see in all this a just 

retribution for their opposition to his work and take pleasure 

in their tribulation, and even by taking the side of the 

peasants augment it. Instead of so doing, he will endeavour 

to give them good counsel. Let them eschew wrath and 

harsh methods, and reason with the peasants as with a drunk 

or an erring man. Some of their demands are reasonable 

even if they are acting only from self-interest. They have 

a right to the preaching of the Gospel, and no government is 

entitled to prescribe what anyone shall believe, whether it is 

gospel or lies. It has as little right to oppress the people 

in body or in soul in order that the upper classes may welter 

in luxury and excess. 

He then turns to the peasants. Princes and lords, he 
admits, by their attitude towards the Gospel and their 
oppression of the people, well deserve to be overthrown 
by God. They have no excuse. If the peasants are acting 
with a good conscience, God will stand by them, and even 
if for a time they suffer defeat and death, they will gain 
the victory in the end. A good conscience before God is 
the main thing. Let them especially beware of listening 
to the spirits and preachers whom Satan has inspired under 
the guise of the Gospel, and of taking God's Name in vain 
in professing to establish God's justice by violence. Let 
them remember the Word of Christ that they that take the 
sword shall perish by the sword, and the saying of Paul 

'"Werke/'xviiL 295. 

Luther and the Rising 201 

who inculcates obedience to the powers that be. To rise 
in rebellion and seek the forcible redress of grievances is, 
therefore, contrary to God's ordinance. It is no justification 
of rebellion to adduce their wicked oppression. To punish 
such belongs not to the individual by divine and natural 
right. To commit injustice in the attempt to obtain justice 
is to wrong God's Word. For anyone forcibly to seek to 
right his wrongs is to open the door to anarchy and murder. 
This is not permissible to those who profess the Name of 
Christ, whatever the false prophets say. Vengeance is mine, 
saith the Lord, who commands obedience to wicked as well 
as good princes. Christ teaches us to suffer, not to with- 
stand injustice. " Suffering, suffering, cross, cross this is 
the Christian'sright and no other." 80 To adduce natural right 
in justification of the forcible redress of worldly grievances 
is contradictory of this gospel of suffering. Let them trust 
in God, as he himself has done, and behold what God has 
accomplished for him, despite Pope and Emperor and all 
other tyrants. Let them pray, exercise patience, and eschew 
force. Any other attitude is utterly contrary to the Gospel, 
which has nothing to do with temporal things. Even the 
demand for the preaching of the Gospel is not to be enforced 
against the will of the powers that be. The only remedy is 
to remove to another place, where the Gospel is rightly 
preached, as Christ teaches. From the Christian standpoint 
the peasants have, therefore, no case. Even the demand for 
the abolition of serfdom has no warrant in the GospeL 
Serfdom is quite compatible with spiritual freedom. Did not 
Abraham and the patriarchs practise slavery, and did not 
St Paul exhort slaves to be obedient to their masters ? He 
refuses to allow that Christianity has anything to do with 
the contentions of either side. The whole movement is 
purely a worldly matter. There are faults on both sides, 
and he concludes by advising a friendly accommodation, 
befitting worldly affairs, on the ground of mutual concessions. 
Otherwise Germany will be overwhelmed with destruction 
and misery. If both parties refuse to listen to this advice, 
he disclaims all responsibility for the terrible consequences. 
This advice was eminently sound if only in view of the 

so Werke," xviii. 310. 

202 Luther and the Reformation 

lamentable issue of the appeal to force. It cannot be said, 
however, that the train of reasoning that preceded it was 
fitted to convince the peasants of the inadmissibility of this 
appeal. He places the responsibility for the rising on the 
intolerable tyranny of the princes and lords. He admits 
that the position of the peasants is unbearable, and that 
such a rising was inevitable. He states the case for them 
and then runs away from it, telling them that, unbearable as 
their lot might be, they have no right as Christians to rebel 
in order to remedy it, because Christianity teaches obedience 
to constituted authority, no matter how tyrannical it may 
be, because it is a religion of suffering, because it has nothing 
to do with worldly things. This was simply to strengthen 
the iniquitous regime of the princes by admitting their 
right to oppress their subjects without fear of active opposi- 
tion on their part. He forgets, moreover, that the teaching 
of Christ and the Apostles in this respect applied to a society 
that was non-Christian, and that while it might be the 
duty of the primitive Christian to obey and suffer at the 
hands of such a society, it by no means followed that it was 
equally a duty to do so in one that was professedly Christian. 
The peasants might forcibly retort that the oppression by 
one section of Christians, in a Christian State, of the mass 
of their fellow-Christians was absolutely at variance with 
Christianity, and that it was their Christian duty to put a 
summary end to it, not abet it by submission and suffering. 
He had not hesitated, in the " Address to the Nobility," 
for instance, to recognise this duty in reference to the reform 
of the abuses in the Church, and even incited to revolutionary 
methods against the oppressive papal regime. If, in a 
Christian State, Christianity inculcated only submission to 
scandalous social abuses, it was merely bolstering up and 
perpetuating injustice and wrong and stultifying and 
nullifying the Gospel. Luther was becoming too prone to 
be the slave of the Word, to interpret it without due judg- 
ment or discrimination. To threaten the princes with the 
wrath of God was all very well, but such a threat would have 
no effect in remedying the peasants' grievances, and they 
might well aigue that God had chosen them, as he practically 
admitted, to be the effective agents of His wrath. Equally 

Luther and the Rising 203 

inept, from the standpoint of the downtrodden peasant, the 
contention that Christianity has nothing to do with the 
worldly lot of the Christian. To calmly assert that it is 
immaterial in a Christian society whether the Christian is 
a serf or a free man, whether the laws and institutions 
under which he Hves axe good or bad, whether he and his 
family are ground in the dust in order that a privileged class, 
which professes to be Christian, may live in selfish ease and 
luxury, showed a lack of understanding of human nature and 
what is permissible in a Christian State. Moreover, whilst 
his denunciation of the princes was too much coloured by his 
resentment at their antagonism to his religious teaching, 
his animus against the more advanced preachers was in 
itself sufficient to prejudice the peasants against him. He 
writes on the assumption that all these preachers are of the 
type of a Miinzer, and that, at all events, every reformer 
who differs from him and champions a reformation in the 
larger Christian sense is an enemy of the Gospel. In reality 
the preachers who helped to mould the Twelve Articles 
were not fanatical revolutionaries of the Miinzer type, and 
their sympathy with the people was not likely to appear to 
the peasantry in the light of the heinous offence that it was 
to Luther. Nor was it likely that these peasants would 
discard their guidance in deference to one who had the 
bad taste to tell them that, because Abraham and the 
patriarchs had slaves, they had no reason to seek emancipa- 
tion from their servile or semi-servile status. 

The " Exhortation " accordingly proved a failure as an 
attempt to forestall the further progress of the movement. 
The peasants ignored Luther in their preference for the 
preachers of the right of rebellion, and Luther waxed furious. 
The pillage of castles and monasteries was bad enough. 
The Weinsberg tragedy and the fanatic vapourings of 
Miinzer, who was spreading the revolutionary fever in the 
Thuringian region, in spite of his efforts 81 to preserve the 
peasants of this region from the contagion, led him to see in 

81 He published, with a preface and a conclusion, the Articles of 
Agreement between the Swabian peasants and Truchsess, which held out 
the prospect of a peaceful conclusion of the conflict (22nd April 1525), 
" Werke," xviii. 336 f. 

204 Luther and the Reformation 

it the work of the devil pure and simple. Hence the deplor- 
able effusion, " Against the Robber and Murdering Bands 
of the Peasants." tt The peasants have been false to the 
Gospel they profess to follow, and are doing the devil's work 
under the inspiration of "the arch-devil that rules at 
Muhlhausen." This was to a certain extent true enough. 
But he errs in taking Miinzer as a type of the peasant leader, 
and in his savage mood overlooks the fact that the devil's 
work was not all on one side. He errs, too, in ascribing 
wholesale a bloodthirsty character to the movement. He 
now sees in the peasants a set of wanton murderers, while the 
fact is that murder was the exception, not the rule. He not 
only reiterates his doctrine of unconditional obedience. He 
commands every one who can to throttle a rebellious man 
without further ado, as one would hasten to extinguish a 
conflagration by every possible means. It is the devil in 
person that is raging in the land. "Therefore strike, 
throttle, stab, secretly or openly, whoever can, and remember 
that there is nothing more poisonous, more hurtful, more 
devilish than a rebellious man." ^ These are fine Christians 
who appeal to the first chapters of Genesis in proof that all 
are created equal, with an equal right to all things. In the 
New Testament, Moses is of no account. The Gospel teaches 
obedience to Caesar, and baptism makes not the body of 
property but only the soul free. " I believe there is no 
longer a single devil in hell. They have -all taken possession 
of the peasants." Such devils the princes are entitled 
without further parley to strike down. He adds, indeed, 
that the Christian princes, humbling themselves before God 
on account of their sins and in deference to the Gospel may 
attempt to recall the peasants to their duty. But in case of 
refusal the only remedy is the sword, and they must wield the 
sword without mercy. In his previous effusion princes and 
lords were a set of scoundrels for the most part. Now, 
they axe all God's ministers and if they fall in the cause 
they axe martyrs ; whereas whoever is killed on the peasants* 
side will burn for ever in hell. 84 These axe wonderful times 

83 " Werke," xviii. 344 f. Beginning of May 1525. 
" " Werke/* xviii. 358. 

84 Eyn ewiger hellebrand ist. 

Luther and the Rising 205 

when a prince can gain heaven by bloodshed better than by 
praying. He interjects a few words in favour of mercy to 
those who have been forced or led astray by others. But 
he ends by repeating the savage summons to strike, stab, 
throttle who can. 

This savage conclusion is its own judgment, and the 
judgment certainly goes against Luther as a Christian 
theologian. In this wild outburst he outdoes even Miinzer 
as the apostle of irresponsible violence. His realistic belief 
in Antichrist and the devil, his mistaken assumption that 
the whole movement was dominated by the spirit of a 
Miinzer, his honest but indiscriminating revulsion from the 
theory of force in the redress of grievances may explain, 
but cannot excuse, the furious spirit of this incitement of 
the brutal instincts of the feudal class against the mass. 
Luther has clearly lost his head, if not his courage, in the 
face of a situation which was indeed terrible enough, but 
which his wild effusion, by giving scope to the spirit of 
vengeance, could only make still more terrible. No wonder 
that it excited protests on the part of some of his followers, 
such as the Mansfeld Councillor Riihel and Hausmann, 
the pastor of Zwickau. In view of these criticisms, he felt 
compelled to write a defence in a circular letter to the 
Chancellor of Mansfeld, Caspar Miiller, and attempted to 
intervene in letters and sermons on the side of mercy. He 
expresses, too, indignation at the cruelty with which the 
princes are treating the peasants after they have won the 
victory. But he would not retract a single word of his 
pamphlet or apologise for it as the offspring of momentary 
passion. " A rebel is not worthy to receive a reasonable 
answer, for he will not accept it. With the fist one must 
answer such foul-mouthed fellows, so that the blood spurts 
from their noses. . . . Their ears must be opened with 
musket balls so that their heads fly into the air." 85 "As 
the ass will have blows so the mass will only be ruled by 
force," 86 is his fixed conviction. 

85 Ein Sendbrief von dem harten Buchlein wider die Bauem, 
" Werke," xviii. 386; cf. his letters to Rflhel, " Werke," 53, 291 f. 
306 (Erlangen ed.) ; and to Amsdorf, Enders, v. 182-183. 

* Ibid., xviii, 394. 

206 Luther and the Reformation 

Luther's thirst for the blood of the insurgents was 
destined to receive an early quenching. The princes were 
preparing to take a terrible vengeance in the spirit of their 
theological mentor. The peasants, though inspiring terror 
far and near by the pillage of castles and monasteries, had 
wasted their strength and their opportunity in these out- 
bursts of violence. The movement was widespread, but it 
was not cohesive. The hundreds of thousands in the field 
were split into many bands, which engaged in local raids 
and sieges, but did not co-operate in any general plan of 
operations. There does not, in fact, seem to have been a 
general plan, for the Committee at Heilbron never got into 
proper working order, and had no firm grip on the movement. 
This lack of cohesion gave their enemies the opportunity 
of attacking in detail the ill-led and ill-disciplined peasant 
armies which could not be taught to obey orders, and were 
given to drinking and feasting whenever a chance offered. 
These bands, it must be remembered, attracted the scum 
as well as the more reputable element of the population. 
" The peasants were always drunk," we are told, " and would 
not be ruled by any man." 87 Moreover, the moderate 
party, which was in favour of compromise, did not pull with 
the extremists, who insisted on the complete concession of 
the Articles. Thus in the early summer of 1525 the move- 
ment was suppressed with much slaughter in Franconia, 
and in the south and west in spite of an occasional peasant 
success here and there. In the north the fanatic adherents 
of Munzer were broken and dispersed at Frankenhausen 
on the 15th May by the forces of the Landgrave Philip of 
Hesse, Duke George of Saxony, and Duke Henry of 
Brunswick, and their leader captured, tortured, and beheaded. 
In the east, where the struggle lasted into 1526, the Tyrolese 
mountaineers were at length forced to submit, and their 
leader, Gaismeyr, was driven to seek refuge in Italy. 

Over a large part of the insurgent area defeat was 
followed by a terrible retribution, which was called bringing 
the rebels to justice. A brutal revenge is the more fitting 
term to apply to it in those regions at least where such savage 

7 " History of Modern Liberty," ii. 96. 

Luther and the Rising 207 

reactionaries as the Duke of Lorraine and the Margrave 
Casimir of Ansbach gave free rein to their brutality in 
wholesale hanging, decapitating, massacring, maiming, and 
devastation. In this orgy of vengeance such rulers forgot 
their own sins and shortcomings as rulers and trustees of 
the commonweal. Among the few who showed moderation 
and humanity, the Landgrave Philip of Baden and the 
Elector of the Palatinate deserve honourable mention, and 
ultimately it began to dawn even on the more savage of 
these princely repressers that a limit must be put to this 
orgy of revenge, if only on the ground of self-interest. " If 
all our peasants are done to death in this manner/ 1 wrote the 
Margrave George to his brother Casimir, " where shall we 
find others to grow our food ? It really behoves us to 
consider the matter wisely." 8S Thus the gruesome drama 
came at last to an end. But what an ending for the common 
man ! Over 100,000 at the lowest computation had lost 
their lives during the Rising and the retribution that followed 
it, 89 and many thousands more sought safety in flight across 
the Swiss border. The peasant sank back into his servile 
condition and the boon of emancipation was relegated to 
the far distant days of the French Revolution. Only to a 
limited extent had he succeeded, as in Baden, in obtaining 
any amelioration of his lot. In general the Rising resulted 
in the aggravation of his oppression. For this result he 
had himself, in no small measure, to blame. By his violence 
and love of plunder, his lack of discipline, his bibulousness, 
his inexperience in tactics, his proneness to panic in the face 
of the trained soldier, he had lost what was in the main a 
good cause and failed to vindicate claims, most of which a 
more enlightened age has come to regard as rights. 

The suppression of the Rising had an unfortunate effect 
on the evangelical movement. The hope that this movement 
would become the means of effecting a far-reaching social 
reformation was blasted. The preachers who had worked 
for this larger reformation were crushed in the general 
crash. In those regions where the anti-Lutheran princes 
triumphed, the ruffianly repression of the peasants sealed 

Janssen, v. 348 (Eng. trans.). 8t Ibid., iv. 347. 

20 8 Luther and the Reformation 

at the same time the fate of the religious Reformation itself. 
In a large part of the south Roman Catholicism shared 
in the victory of the princes and lords, and thus Luther in 
championing their cause against the people with such 
reckless violence was in reality working into the hands of 
his enemies. The hope of winning the whole empire was 
thereby wrecked, and even if the movement continued to 
make headway in the north, which had largely been exempt 
from the revolutionary fever, it was not so much because of 
its democratic appeal as of the play of princely self-interest 
to which Luther had, if unwittingly, thirled it. Lutheranism 
ceased to be a popular creed for the time being at least. 90 
The people denounced him as " the flatterer of the princes," 91 
and threatened to take his life. " All the lords, parsons, 
and peasants are against me and threaten me with death," 
he wrote to Riihel on the I5th June. 92 Their ill-will, he adds, 
does not trouble him, and he certainly made no attempt to 
disarm it. The Rising had shattered his trust in the masses, 
and he continued to reiterate his dogma that force is the 
only remedy in dealing with discontented subjects. Even 
long afterwards, when the passion begotten by the struggle 
had had time to subside, he is found defending in his dogged 
fashion the obnoxious philippic against the peasants. " It 
was I, Martin Luther, who slew all the peasants during 
the Rising, for I commanded them to be slaughtered. All 
their blood is on my head. But I throw the responsibility 
on our Lord God, who instructed me to give this order." w 
He doubtless acted from a land of bovine conviction, and 
not from any desire to gain the favour of the ruling class. 
His previous denunciations of the princes and their mis- 
government convincingly show that he was not actuated 

to Von Below questions the generally accepted view of the adverse 
effects of the repression of the rising- on the Lutheran movement (" Ur- 
sachen," 55-56, 59-6o) against Karl Muller, " Kirchengeschichte," ii. 
325-326; Hermelink, "Reformation und Gegen Reformation," 89; 
and others. Stolze, " Bauemkrieg und Reformation," 119 f., also 
questions the accepted view; whilst Ritter, another recent writer 
(" Luther," 123-124 (1925)), supports the adverse conclusion. 

fl Enders, v. 182, adulator principum. 

* Werke," 53, 314; cf. 305 (Erlangen ed.). 

* Ibid., 59, 284 (Erlangen ed.). 

Luther and the Rising 209 

by such a motive. He was in principle up to this period 
opposed to the use of force in behalf of religious or any 
other reform, and to him religious reform was the thing that 
mainly mattered. Moreover, the revolution threatened to 
engulf his cause in the general chaos which it was tendinp 
to bring about, and on the rejection of his own wise proposal 
of arbitration he might well see in a victory for constituted 
authority the only guarantee of the preservation of law 
and order. Even so, his sudden change from the role of 
the wise arbiter to that of the raving partisan, who advocates 
the wholesale slaughter of the insurgents and the restoration 
of the old system, irrespective of Christian equity, shows a 
lack of anything like statesmanship, let alone Christian 
self-restraint. His influence over public opinion was 
such that he might at least have moderated the havoc 
and fury of princely retaliation. At all events, he himself 
assumed that a word from him would have gone far to 
turn the scale the other way. Even if nothing he could 
have said or done would have prevented the tragic collapse 
of the popular cause, it was not his province to proclaim so 
dogmatically the political nullity of the common man in a 
professedly Christian State, as an axiom of the movement of 
which he was the leader, and inculcate unquestioning obedi- 
ence to the absolute ruler, however oppressive his rule. 
Unfortunately, under the influence of the revolutionary 
scare, the Reformation in Germany, as directed by him, 
henceforth contributed to strengthen the regime of the 
absolute ruler, whether elector, duke, landgrave, or other 
petty potentate, instead of developing into the larger and 
more democratic movement of which it had at first seemed 
to be the promise, and to which his theological teaching had 
undoubtedly given an impulse. Luther, Melanchthon, Bucer 
swam with the political current that was bearing the absolute 
ruler to port in Germany, France, Spain. In the political 
sphere they have no wide vision. They preach the doctrine 
of divine right pure and simple. They dethrone an absolute 
pope only to put in his place the absolute prince. Passive 
resistance may be permissible in matters of conscience. 
The Christian subject may not deny God at the prince's com- 
mand. But he may not actively resist. Even this modicum 

210 Luther and the Reformation 

of right was denied by Bucer, who insists that subjects 
must obey the commands of the prince even when contrary 
to God's Word. 94 

" See " History of Modern Liberty," ii. 103. For Melanchthon's 
views see his ** Refutation of the Twelve Articles " which he wrote for 
the enlightenment of the Elector of the Palatinate. ** Corp. Ref ," xx. 
641-643 ; cf. Janssen, iv. 364-367 ; Ellinger, " Melanchthon," 211-212 ; 
Richard, ** Melanchthon," 149-152. The literature on the subject of the 
Rising" is voluminous. The older work of Zimmerrnann (1856) has been 
edited by Bios (1891). A valuable collection of documents is given by 
Baumann, " Akten zur Geschichte des Bauernkriegs " (1877) and 
" Quellen zur Geschichte des Bauernkriegs in Oberschwaben " (1876). 
More recent are the works of Stolze, * " Der Deutsche Bauernkrieg " (1907) 
and " Bauernkrieg und Reformation " (1926) ; Gotze, " Die Artikel der 
Bauern," "Hist. Vierteljahrschrift" (1901); Jaeger, "Die Pohtischen 
Ideen Luther's," "Preuss. Jahrbucher" (1903) ; Zimmerrnann, "Thomas 
Munzer " (1925), to mention only these out of a large number of recent 
monographs. A luminous account is that of Von Bezold, ** Geschichte 
der Deutschen Reformation." Janssen, " Hist, of the German People,"* 
iii. and iv., is fuller, but prejudiced; and Ranke, "Deutsche Ges- 
chichte," is also one-sided. Schapiro, "Social Reform and the 
Reformation " (1909), and Waring, " Political Theories of Luther " 
(1910), who rather feebly attempts a complete vindication of Luther, 
are the most recent reviews in English. The work of Bax, " The 
Peasants* War in Germany " (1899), is a popular account on the side of 
the insurgents. So is that of Friedrich Engels, translated into English 
by Olgin (1927). Other accounts in English are given in my " History 
of Modern Liberty ** (1906) and in Oman's short survey in the " English 
Historical Review " (1890). 



LUTHER'S warfare with the extremists included the sphere 
of culture as well as of religion and politics. The emphasis 
on the supreme value of the Word as the norm of truth 
and on the right of the Christian community to judge of 
doctrine, the exaltation of faith and the depreciation of 
reason as the medium of a knowledge of the divine, the 
antagonism to the scholastic theology, the denunciation of 
the scholastic educational method, tended to foster in 
ignorant and ill-balanced minds a contempt for all culture 
the new as well as the old. The prophets saw in individual 
illumination by the Spirit the infallible guarantee of truth, 
and refused to attribute this exclusive prerogative to the 
Word. Carlstadt, learned doctor though he was, turned 
to the ordinary layman for the true interpretation of Scripture 
texts. 1 In this he was not necessarily so eccentric as his 
fellow-theologians were disposed to assume. Spiritual 
intuition is no monopoly of learned doctors, whether Roman 
Catholic or evangelical. Genuine religious experience in 
the case of a weaver or a shoemaker may teach even the most 
erudite scholar whose learning lacks the intuition which 
experienced truth alone can give. The critics of Carlstadt 
and even Miinzer are apt to forget that in the New Testament 
community edification was the right of every member who 
had something to say for the common enlightenment, not 
the sole prerogative of apostle, prophet, or presbyter. On 
the other hand, Carlstadt carried his predilection for this 
laic, New Testament type of religion beyond the limit of 

1 Barge, i. 416-417. 

212 Luther and the Reformation 

good sense in renouncing the practice of promoting candidates 
to theological degrees, on the ground of the equality of 
all Christians, and the command in Matt, xxiii. 8 to call 
no man master. 2 The religious excitement of the time was 
tending, like strong drink, to go to the heads even of learned 
professors, not to speak of ordinary Christians, whilst many 
of the emancipated monks, who had been ignorant obscurant- 
ists before becoming evangelical preachers, were compromis- 
ing Luther's doctrine of the supreme value and authority 
of the Word by their superficial diatribes against the new 
learning as well as the old scholasticism. At Erfurt, for 
instance, these hotheads carried the war against their 
scholastic opponents the length of depreciating the study of 
the classics and proclaiming that, for an understanding of 
the Scriptures, a knowledge of Latin and Greek was super- 
fluous. 3 At Niirnberg, Basle, Strassburg, and elsewhere this 
new obscurantism found expression in sermons or pamphlets, 
to the distress of Melanchthon, Eobanus Hessus, and other 
apostles of the new culture, who had espoused the cause 
of Luther. Melanchthon was fain to confess in his " En- 
comium Eloquentiae " that this depreciation of classical 
studies was spreading like an infectious disease, not only 
among the preachers, but among professors of law and 
medicine. 4 " Good God," wrote he to Hessus in April 1523, 
" how preposterously do those theologise who wish to show 
their wisdom solely by their contempt of these good things ! 
What is this error but a new species of sophistry ? " 5 
Similarly, Eobanus expressed his strong disapprobation of 
this obscurantist tendency in a Latin elegy addressed to 
Luther under the title of " Captiva." 6 

Nor were these apprehensions merely the Jeremiads of 
opinionated humanists who were inclined to see in the 
study of the classics the exclusive medium of a liberal 
education. They were substantiated by the growing lack 
of interest in the higher education reflected in the general 
decline of the number of students attending the secondary 

2 Barge, ii. 12. * " Corp. Ref.," xi. 50 f. 

3 " Werke," xv. 10. * Ibid., i. 613. 

* Printed by Secerius at Hagenau, 1523, under the title of " Ecclesiae 
Afflictse Epistola ad Lutherum," Enders, iv. 120. 

Luther and Education 213 

schools and the universities during this period. During the 
five years 1521-25 the number of those matriculating at 
Wittenberg University sank from 245 in the former year 7 
to 171 in the latter. This decline is, in fact, apparent in all 
the German universities, and in some of them it was more 
marked than at Wittenberg. In the case of Leipzig, for 
instance, the number sank from 339 to 102, of Cologne from 
251 to 120, of Freiburg from 171 to 22. In 1526 only 9 
students matriculated at Rostock, compared with 118 in 
1521, whilst teaching at Greifswald was suspended between 
1524 and 1539 f r l ac k of students. 8 

The shrinkage plainly shows that the humanist movement, 
which had contributed to fill the class-rooms during the 
previous two decades, had passed its zenith and had given place 
to a reaction under the influence of the evangelical Reforma- 
tion. There can be no question that the religious excitement 
which manifested itself in student riots at Wittenberg and 
Erfurt took, in part at least, the form of a superficial tendency 
to divorce religion from culture, under the mistaken belief 
that the votaries of the new Gospel could afford to dispense 
not only with the old theology and philosophy but with a 
literary education. 9 Ulscenius, for instance, writes to Capito 
in January 1522 that a number of the students had left the 
University of Wittenberg as the result of this reaction, 10 
whilst the Elector in a message to Luther at the Wartburg 
shortly after anxiously noted the same fact. 11 At the same 
time, this reaction against the new culture was not peculiai 

7 Compared with 579 in 1520. 

8 Eilenburg, '* Uber die Frequenz der deutschen Universitaten in 
fruherer Zeit," "Jahrbucher fiir Nationaloconomie," Bd. 13 (1877); 
Barge, i. 419-420. 

9 For details see Albrecht, " Studien zu Luther's Schrift, An die 
Ratherren," " Theologische Studien und Kritiken" (1897), 782 f. 
Paulsen is mistaken in reckoning among these obscurantists John Lang, 
4 * Geschichte des gelehrten Unterrichts," i. 190. Lang, in fact, preached 
a sermon in May 1523 against these fanatic preachers, which was published 
in the same year, and which Luther had probably read before issuing his 
own famous address to the municipalities on " School Reform " in the 
following year. See Albrecht, " Studien/' 737 f. 

"Z.K.G.,"v. 331- 
" " Corp. Ref.," i. 560. 

214 Luther and the Reformation 

to Wittenberg or Erfurt, It was by no means due merely 
to the obscurantist influence of a Carlstadt or the ex-monks 
who, as preachers, espoused the cause of Luther with more 
zeal than wisdom. Its factors were economic as well as 
religious. Begging, for instance, had hitherto been recognised 
as a legitimate means of subsistence for students, even in 
the case of those who belonged to well-to-do families, as 
well as for the monastic Orders. As the reform ordinances 
at Wittenberg and elsewhere show, one of the effects of the 
evangelical movement was to discredit the practice and 
create a more healthy self-respect in the rising generation, 
as against this demeaning form of charity. The prospect of 
securing a living, in the form of an ecclesiastical prebend, as 
the result of a university education had, further, lost its 
attraction for those who had forsworn the Pope and all his 
works. In any case the secularisation of ecclesiastical 
property threatened to dry up this source of income for 
the needy scholar. Moreover, the changing economic 
conditions of the age were tending to foster a more material 
and practical view of life. An expanding commerce was 
offering a more alluring prospect for the enterprising youth, 
who, as Bucer deplores, were more concerned with the quest 
of wealth than the things of the spirit. " Nobody/ 1 he com- 
plains, " will learn anything nowadays except what brings 
in money. All the world is running after those trades and 
occupations which give least work to do and bring the most 
gain, without any concern for their neighbour or for honest 
and good report. The study of the arts and sciences is set 
aside for the barest kinds of manual work. ... All the 
clever heads which have been endowed by God with capacity 
for the nobler studies are engrossed by commerce/' 12 
" Things have become so deplorable in the last few years/' 
complains the writer of the " Clag eines einfaltigen Kloster- 
bruders/' "that no Christian mother can anymore send her 
children to the schools, which either have been abolished 
or are despised ; so all the young folk are turned into trades- 
people, and the children of the poor, who are especially 
God-forsaken, become petty craftsmen in towns and villages 

18 Janssen, iv. 162-163. 

Luther and Education 215 

without much knowledge of these trades. Most of them 
become small shopkeepers, pedlars, hawkers, all of which 
varieties abound in excess." 13 

That Luther should take the opposite side from the 
extremists on the culture question was a foregone conclusion. 
Though not a professed humanist, he had in his student days 
found both pleasure and profit in reading the Latin classics. 
When he entered the Augustinian monastery at Erfurt he 
had carried his Virgil in his pocket. Under the influence of 
Lang, Spalatin, and other humanist friends, he had gradually 
learned to prize the study of the ancient languages as an 
indispensable adjunct of the interpretation of the sources 
of Christianity, and had, for this reason, availed himself of the 
scholarship of Lef evre, and especially of Erasmus, in his early 
exegetical work as professor of Holy Writ. He had sub- 
mitted to the drudgery of learning Hebrew and Greek in 
order the better to fit himself for this vocation. His transla- 
tion of the Bible from the original languages is a monument 
of his practical interest in the new culture, without which it 
would not have been possible, as well as of his ability to 
mould the vernacular idiom into a fitting medium to convey 
to the common man the sense of the sacred writings. The 
study of these languages was an integral part of the sketch 
of educational reform contained in the " Address to the 
Nobility." It is not surprising, therefore, that, in reply to 
Eobanus Hessus, he emphatically rebutted the obscurantist 
vapourings of the shallow and ignorant advocates of the 
divorce of religion from culture, and that in his later negotia- 
tions with the Bohemians he adduced, among other objections 
to their theological teaching, their neglect of the ancient 
languages in the education of their priests. 14 He himself, 
indeed, had proclaimed the capacity of the individual 
believer to attain, under the guidance of the Spirit, a 
knowledge of the way of salvation, and even preach Christ, 
from a perusal of the German Bible. But, as a rule, he 
recognised and emphasised the value of an adequate 
linguistic and literary training for the preacher as well as 

13 Janssen, iv. 163. 

14 In his treatise, " Von Anbeten des Sacraments," written for the 
instruction of the Bohemians, " Werke," xi. 455-456 (April 1523)- 

2i 6 Luther and the Reformation 

the theologian. 15 " Do not give way to your apprehension/* 
he wrote to Eobanus on the 23rd March 1523, " lest we 
Germans become more barbarous than ever we were by 
reason of the decline of letters through our theology. I am 
persuaded that, without a skilled training in literary studies, 
no true theology can establish and maintain itself, seeing 
that in times past it has invariably fallen miserably and 
lain prostrate with the decline and fall of learning. On the 
other hand, it is indubitable that there never has been a 
signal revelation of divine truth unless first the way has 
been prepared for it, as by a John the Baptist, by the 
revival and pursuit of the study of languages and literature. 
Assuredly there is nothing I should less wish to happen 
than that our youth should neglect poetry and rhetoric 
(humanist studies). My ardent vow is that there should be 
is many poets and rhetoricians as possible, because I see 
:learly that by no other methods is it possible to train men 
for the apt understanding, the right and felicitous treatment 
rf sacred things. Wherefore I beg that you may incite the 
fouth of Erfurt to give themselves strenuously to this study. 
[ am often impatient that in this age of enlightenment 
time will not permit me to devote myself to poetry and 
"hetoric, though I formerly bought a Homer in order that 
[ might become a Greek." 16 " I beg you," he wrote to 
Strauss at Eisenach a year later (April 1524), "to do your 
itmost in the cause of the training of youth. For I am 
;onvinced that the neglect of education will bring the 
greatest ruin to the Gospel. This matter is the most 
mportant of all." 17 

His sense of the value of a Christian education and of the 
Dressing need of educational reform, in the interest of the 
State as well as the Church, found more elaborate expression in 
he famous "Appeal to the Municipalities of Germany " early 
Q 1524. The "Appeal " is a monument of the enlightened 
aterest in education which the Reformation, as inspired by 

15 See, for instance, "Werke," xi. 455-456. On Luther and 
umanism see the monographs of Schmidt, " Luther's Bekanntschaft 
lit den Classikern," and Evers, " Das Verhaltnis Luther's zu den 
[umanisten " (1895). 

1S Enders, iv. 119-120. 17 Ibid., iv. 328. 

Luther and Education 217 

Luther, Melanchthon, Zwingli, and other reformers, in spite 
of the obscurantism of the extremists, fostered not only 
in Germany, but in all the lands in which the reformed dis- 
placed the mediaeval Church. It reflects, too, the influence 
of Melanchthon, the Praceptor Germanics, to whose humanist 
learning Luther, and Germany along with him, owed so 
much, and who had begun his career as Professor of Greek 
at Wittenberg with an inaugural discourse on " The Improve- 
ment of the Studies of Youth." 18 This plea in behalf of the 
new, in opposition to the scholastic culture, and of the 
imperative necessity, in the case of theology, of the study of 
Greek and Hebrew for the true understanding of sacred 
literature, made a powerful impression on Luther, though 
its spirit was that of Erasmus rather than of the militant 
leader of the evangelical movement. " When we go to the 
sources we are led to Christ." In the six years that had 
intervened between its delivery in August 1518 and the 
" Appeal to the Municipalities/' Luther's appreciation of the 
value of classical studies had deepened as the result of his 
intercourse and collaboration with the brilliant young 
scholar, who, on his part, had developed into the active 
champion of evangelical as well as educational reform. 

Although he has been for three years under the ban 
of the Pope and the Emperor and an outlaw in the eyes of 
men, no human authority will prevent him from fulfilling 
his God-appointed mission to proclaim the truth. Accord- 
ingly he begs the German municipal authorities at the 
outset 19 to receive his message on the subject as the voice 
of Christ. He acknowledges that the evangelical movement 
has had an adverse effect on education. Now that the 
monastic and clerical career is falling into disrepute as the 
result of the preaching of the Gospel, parents are naturally 

18 Ellinger, " Melanchthon," 88 f. 

19 An die Ratherren aller stadte Deutsches Lands, " Werke," xv. 
27 f., with valuable introduction by O. Albrecht. See also his " Studien 
zu Luther's Schrift an die Ratherren," "Theolog. Studien" (1897), 
687 f. ; Paulsen, " Geschichte des gelehrten Unterrichts," 197 f. ; and 
" German Education, Past and Present," 53 f., Eng. trans, by Lorenz 
(1908). Paulsen is rather unsympathetic, and underrates Luther's 
significance as an educational reformer, in contrast to the more purely 
humanist reformers. 

21 8 Luther and the Reformation 

enough asking what is the good of educating their children 
in accordance with use and wont. Hitherto, he naively 
explains, the devil was only too pleased to see the children 
brought up in the error and falsehood of the monastic and 
collegiate schools. But now that he is in danger of losing 
their souls through the spread of the Gospel, he has changed 
has tactics and descants on the futility of all education. 
Ignorance and contempt of all knowledge will serve his 
purpose equally well. In reality, the lack of a sound 
education is a worse enemy of the commonweal than the 
Turk, and if we give a single gulden for the defence of the 
empire, we ought to give a hundred to educate even one 
boy to become a right Christian man, in view of the value of 
such an educated man to the country. Let the town 
authorities, therefore, take to heart the importance of the 
education of youth on which its highest well-being depends. 
If they spend money in fortifying and improving the town, 
why should they grudge spending in providing schoolmasters 
for the purpose of securing this supreme object? The 
individual citizen as well as the public authority has his 
responsibility in this matter. If people formerly gave so 
readily for indulgences, masses, pilgrimages, and other 
rubbish, should they not be ready to devote a part of this 
wasted expenditure to a sound training of the rising genera- 
tion ? In giving the Gospel to the present age, God has 
provided a multitude of men educated in the new learning 
and gifted with the requisite knowledge and skill to impart 
such a training. The present age is the year of jubilee for 
Germany. Formerly we spent long years of drudgery in 
the schools and learned neither Latin nor German properly. 
The whole school instruction, he says, in his exaggerated 
manner, produced only asses and blockheads and tended to 
the corruption rather than the edification of youth. Rather 
than revive this pernicious system, against which he has 
evidently been biased by his changed religious standpoint, 
he would prefer no education at all ! But now that God has 
blessed Germany in such full measure with the pure Gospel, 
let it take advantage of the opportunity and beware of 
missing it. To neglect the education of youth is no less a 
crime than to deflower a virgin, as the scholastic proverb 

Luther and Education 219 

has it. There is no greater danger to the common good 
than an uneducated and ill-disciplined youth, and as 
parents, as a rule, are unfitted or too busy to attend to the 
education of their children, the schoolmaster is indispensable. 
Hence the imperative duty of the public authority to 
provide schools and teachers in the common interest. Nor 
should it be content merely to establish elementary schools 
for the instruction of pupils in German and the Bible. It 
is in the interest of both Church and State to foster the study 
of the classic languages as the best instruments of the higher 
education, for the lack of which Germans are decried in 
foreign lands (Italy is specially meant) as barbarians. By 
neglecting these studies in the schools they will only too 
well merit such supercilious gibes. 

In the first place, for the understanding of the Gospel, 
the study of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew and other Aries 
Liberates is essential. The Gospel was revealed in these 
languages, and to the widespread use of Latin and Greek 
in the ancient world its diffusion was due. In this modern 
age God has similarly brought about their revival, just 
before the rediscovery of the primitive Gospel, in order that 
it might thereby be better understood and the reign of Anti- 
christ disclosed and overthrown. For this reason He allowed 
the Turks to conquer Greece and thus bring about, through 
fugitive Greeks, a wider knowledge of the language of the 
New Testament. Let there be no mistake about it. Without 
a knowledge of these languages Germany will not long retain 
the Gospel. They are the scabbard wherein the sword 
of the Spirit is sheathed, the shrine in which this treasure is 
laid. Not only will it lose the Gospel ; it will fall back into 
the old wretched educational system which, for Luther, 
stands for barbarism in both religion and education. 
Without a knowledge of them there can be no real knowledge 
of the Word and no higher education worthy of the name. 
With their decline in the ancient world true Christianity 
began to fall and came under the power of the Pope. On 
the other hand, their revival has brought about such an 
enlightenment and has accomplished such great things that 
all the world must acknowledge that we now possess the 
Gospel in as pure and true a form as the Apostles had it, 

22o Luther and the Reformation 

and much more purely than in the days of St Jerome and 
Augustine. 20 St Bernard, whom he prizes above all doctors, 
old and new, as a spiritual teacher, often fails, for this reason, 
to catch the true sense of the sacred text a failing which is 
sometimes predicable of his own exegesis. But have not 
many Fathers taught Christianity and attained to honour 
without these languages ? True. On the other hand, how 
many errors disfigure the exegetical writings of Augustine, 
Hilary, and other Fathers who were ignorant of the original 
languages of Scripture! Whilst a preacher may preach 
Christ with edification, though he may be unable to read 
the Scriptures in the originals, he cannot expound or maintain 
their teaching against the heretics without this indispensable 
knowledge. Luther here speaks from his own experience 
as professor of Sacred Writ. This experience had both 
revealed to him his own deficiencies as an exegete and 
driven him to the serious study of both Greek and Hebrew. 
He has travelled a long way from his early dependence on 
Augustine and other Fathers, and has learned not only to 
assign supreme authority to the Scriptures alone, but to 
interpret them independently and to criticise unhesitatingly 
even their patristic interpreters. In complaining of the 
obscurity of Scripture the schoolmen were, he forcibly points 
out, reproving their own ignorance of these languages, 
and it is useless to try to make up for this ignorance by 
quoting from the Fathers and reading the scholastic com- 
mentaries. " As the sun is to the shadow, so is a knowledge 
of the originals to all the commentaries of the Fathers. 1 ' a 
What folly, then, to neglect or depreciate the study of them. 
For this reason he cannot approve of " the Waldensians " 
(the Bohemian Brethren) who despise this study. 

In the second place, this study is essential in the interest 
of the State as well as the Church. Apart from religion, 
such a training is, on purely utilitarian grounds, of the 
utmost importance for the State. " It is a sufficient reason 
for establishing the best possible schools for boys and girls 
that the State, for its own advantage, needs well educated 
men and women for the better government of land and 

u Werke," xv. 39- " Ittd., xv. 41. 

Luther and Education 221 

people, and the proper upbringing of children in the home." ffl 
In view of the inestimable benefit to the State to be derived 
from this education, he would radically change the old 
educational method in a practical direction. He would, 
therefore, discard the tyrannical memorising drill of this 
system and make the task of learning a joy and a recreation 
for the pupils. He calls to mind the useless drudgery of his 
own schooldays at Mansfeld, Magdeburg, and Eisenach, 
and of his student days at Erfurt. The recollection seems 
to be rather overcoloured by his subsequent religious 
experience, which inclines him to see only error and evil 
in everything connected with the old system, as applied 
under the brutal inspiration of the rod. " The schools were 
no better than hell and purgatory, in which we were martyred 
with the grinding of tenses and cases and neveitheless learned 
nothing at all, in spite of the blows, trembling, terror, and 
misery we suffered at the hands of our brutal schoolmasters. 
. . . How much I regret that we did not read more of the 
poets and the historians, and that nobody thought of teaching 
us these. Instead of such study, I was compelled to read 
the devil's rubbish the scholastic philosophers and sophists 
with such cost, labour, and detriment, from which I have 
had trouble enough to rid myself." 23 Happily, by God's 
grace, a more rational, practical, and humane method bids 
fair to introduce a new era in education under the influence 
of the great religious transformation of which he has been the 

Not that he demands the higher education for all. But 
he would place a sound elementary education, combined 
with practical training in some useful craft, within the reach 
of every boy and girl, and even make it compulsory. For 
the training of talented boys for the service of Church and 
State he would provide suitable instruction in secondary 
schools. To the same end he would establish libraries in 
the towns and fill them with useful books, instead of the 
scholastic rubbish which he regards as so much lumber. 
He would exclude from these collections the textbooks of 
canon law and the scholastic theology and philosophy, 

Werke," xv. 44. Ibid., xv. 46. 

222 Luther and the Reformation 

and in place of this " filth " install the Bible in the original 
languages and in German and other translations, along with 
the best ancient commentaries, the classic authors, both 
pagan and Christian, and approved books in law, medicine, 
and all the arts and sciences. He would add the best histories 
and chronicles in any language, particularly those relating to 
German national history, which are indispensable for a proper 
understanding of the past, the ways of God as revealed in 
the doings of men. 

The " Address " is a remarkable performance. It has been 
described as " the Charter of the German gymnasia," 24 or 
high schools. Whilst formally it does not answer to this 
description, it is so far appropriate inasmuch as it tends in 
its own way to stress classical study, combined with religious, 
historical, and scientific instruction, as the fundamental 
principle of a sound secondary education. In this respect 
it is a worthy example of the interest in education character- 
istic of the Reformed Churches, of which Luther was the 
inspirer in Germany, Zwingli and Calvin in Switzerland, 
and John Knox in Scotland. In Ranke's judgment it is 
as significant in its own sphere as the " Address to the 
German Nobility." Contemporaries like Erasmus and 
Cochlaeus, who lay the blame on Luther's shoulders for the 
decline of the schools and universities, have certainly no 
warrant for their accusations in this fervid appeal. It 
alone suffices to rebut the sweeping Erasmian dictum, 
" Wherever Lutheranism prevails, there the destruction of 
letters takes place/* By 1524 Erasmus was becoming 
more and more incapable of discriminating between the 
good and the bad in the Lutheran movement. He represents 
it far too much in the light of its extreme wing, as represented 
by the obscurantist preachers, from whom Luther in this 
appeal expressly dissociates himself. He forgets, too, that 
humanism itself, as far at least as it tended to stress intel- 
lectual culture at the expense of the practical and spiritual 
side of education and to isolate itself from the life of the 
people, could have learned more from it in this respect than 

84 Schmid, " Encyclopadie des gesch. Erziehungs und Unter- 
richtswesens," art. " Luther." 

Luther and Education 223 

it deigned to acknowledge. Moreover, as Hartfelder has 
pointed out, the complaint of lack of interest in classic study 
in the young generation was voiced by humanists like 
Glareanus, Wimpheling, Rudolf Agricola, long before the 
advent of Luther. The fact is that Luther, though primarily 
a religious reformer, had several years before combined 
educational with religious reform in the reform programme 
addressed to the nobility. It redounds to his credit that he 
realised the need for fanning the rather jaded zeal of the 
municipal authorities which, with the development of 
industry and trade in the later mediaeval period, had founded 
and fostered these schools, but which were in danger of 
neglecting them and devoting secularised ecclesiastical 
property to other ends. The "Appeal " is assuredly no mere 
afterthought, suggested merely by the necessity of saving 
the Reformation from disaster and himself from the conse- 
quences of his own reckless religious anarchism, as Paulsen, 
who merely reflects Cochlaeus, assumes. 26 Along with 
Bugenhagen he took steps to revive and reorganise the 
Wittenberg school, which had been closed during his 
absence in the Wartburg, and in response to his "Appeal IJ a 
beginning was made with the work of establishing reformed 
schools at Magdeburg, Nordhausen, Halberstadt, Gotha, 
Eisleben, and Niirnberg within a year of its publication. 26 

It was not without reason that Melanchthon in the 
preface to the Latin translation by Obsopaeus warmly 
commended it to the academic youth of Germany. 27 
Though Luther's motive in penning it was mainly the 
interest of the evangelical movement, he does not overlook 
the material well-being of the nation or the value of education 
as a good in itself. He strove to advance thereby the 
national interest and to raise the national reputation in the 

26 He calls it a " Notschrei der durch die Thatsache des pldtzlichen 
und allgememen Niedergangs des Unterrichtswesens seit dem Anfang der 
Kirchenrevolution ausgepresst ist," i. 197. Was, then, the sketch of 
educational reform already outlined in the " Address to the Nobility '* 
in 1520 a Notschrei or cry of despair ? In view of this fact Paulsen's 
assertion that Luther's esteem for education " was very moderate 
indeed " (" German Education," 48) is rather astounding. 

* Albrecht, " Studien," 772-773- 

a'** Corp. Ref.,"i.66f. 

224 Luther and the Reformation 

face of the charge of barbarism and grossness with which the 
Italians besmirched it, and which, though exaggerated, he 
regards as sufficiently well founded. At the same time the 
supreme end of education is for him the furthering of the 
Gospel as revealed in the Word, and the building up of 
Christian character as the indispensable and the incomparable 
foundation of the higher moral and spiritual life. 


As has been previously noted, humanists of the type 
of Hutten, after being contemptuous or indifferent towards 
the Wittenberg movement, suddenly discovered in Luther 
an ally in the war against the old culture. With the Leipzig 
Disputation and the growing boldness of his challenge to 
Rome, this militant monk became for Crotus, Hutten, and 
other stalwarts of humanism the morning star on the horizon 
of the new age. What attracted them was not the new 
Gospel of justification by faith, to which they paid little 
more than lip service, but the antagonism to the Papacy, 
the hierarchy, and the scholastic theology and philosophy, 
and the plea for liberty of thought and conscience as against 
the Roman autocracy, to which the Wittenberg professor 
was giving such resounding expression. Others, like Lang, 
Melanchthon, Eobanus Hessus, Bucer, Oecolampadius, were 
from the outset, or became, adherents on religious as well as 
intellectual grounds. Luther, in fact, became the magnet of 
an increasing circle of young scholars who whole-heartedly 
acknowledged him as their master in theology, whilst owning 
allegiance to Erasmus in the sphere of culture. Even when 
in due course the time came to choose between adherence 
to the militant reformer or the prince of scholars, the members 
of this circle did not shrink from adopting the former 
alternative. Erasmus thereby lost the unquestioned intel- 
lectual dictatorship which he had exercised for nearly two 
decades. Though no professed humanist, Luther had 
deprived him of his supremacy over the republic of letters. 
Truly a striking testimony to the strength of his personality, 
the dynamic of his religious genius. 

The crisis came in 1521-22 when, in spite of con- 

Luther and Erasmus 225 

damnation and outlawry, he persisted in and even widened 
his attack on Antichrist and the institutions of the Church. 
It was this development, in which the older disciples of 
Erasmus saw the spectre of religious revolution and chaos, 
that led to the parting of the ways. Without the profound 
conviction, based on personal religious experience, and the 
indomitable will power of the irrepressible outlaw, Mutian, 
Crotus, Zasius, Pirkheimer, and others shrank before this 
spectre, whilst Reuchlin disowned his grandnephew, 
Melanchthon, who refused to abandon Luther. 28 The 
attitude of Erasmus himself was a foregone conclusion. 
It was difficult for one whose intellectual development, 
temperament, and religious experience were so different 
from those of Luther fully to understand or appreciate the 
man and the movement, and Luther, as we have seen, was 
early aware of the fundamental difference between their 
theological standpoints. For some years, indeed, after 
Luther's emergence as a religious reformer, his attitude was 
on the whole sympathetic, if non-committal. Both were 
at one in their warfare against the scholastic theology and 
the obscurantism of the schools, in their appeal from the 
schoolmen to the sources of Christianity, in their recoil 
from the conventional religion, in their demand for a 
comprehensive reform of ecclesiastical abuses. So much 
had they in common that the opponents of Luther were also 
the opponents of Erasmus, and regarded them as fellow- 
workers in the same cause. The great humanist, they held, 
was the inspirer of the great heretic. They even believed 
him to be the author of some of Luther's writings. 
" Erasmus/' it was said, " laid the egg that Luther hatched." 
There was a certain amount of truth in the saying. Erasmus 
by his critical labours paved the way to a truer knowledge 
of the original sources, particularly the New Testament 
writings, from which the evangelical reformers drew their 
inspiration, though his edition of the New Testament is, 
of course, very imperfect judged by the standard of modern 
critical scholarship. 29 In " The Method of True Theology/' 

" Geiger, " Johann Reuchlin," 466. 

" Drummond, "Erasmus," i. 315-316, 345-346 (1873); Binns, 
" Erasmus, the Reformer," 75-76 (1923); tf- P- Smith, "Erasmus," 
163 f. (1923). 

226 JLuther and toe Ketormation 

prefaced to it and afterwards published separately in 
enlarged form (Ratio vera Theologiez), he anticipated Luther in 
insisting on the importance of a knowledge of the original 
languages for the understanding of the Scriptures, and in 
exalting such direct knowledge above the scholastic theology, 
of which the Apostles and the Fathers knew nothing and were, 
indeed, the antagonists. 30 He emphasised the supreme 
authority of Scripture and would even test the Apostles' 
Creed by it, 31 if he also recognises the validity of ecclesiastical 
tradition. For him, as for his friend Colet, belief in the 
Scripture and the Apostles' Creed is sufficient, and he refuses 
to submerge the mind in scholastic speculation. He would, 
in fact, displace the scholastic by a scriptural theology, and 
would accord liberty of opinion in theological speculation. 
He shares Luther's denial of the right to impose such 
speculations as articles of faith and his protest against the 
excessive ecclesiastical regulation of the Christian life. The 
Church has become Judaic in this respect, and with Paul, 
as well as Luther, he would restore the liberty of the Gospel, 
and holds that such regulation is not obligatory because it 
is not voluntary. 32 He directs the shafts of his satire especi- 
ally against the monks and the monastic life, which he 
regards as a deformation of the Gospel, 33 and though he does 
not, like Luther, carry his aversion the length of demanding 
the abolition of monasticism, his exposure of its evils is equally 
scathing. In his onslaught on this and other abuses he 
undoubtedly prepared the way for Luther, though he later 
found it convenient to ignore his responsibility in this matter. 
In virtue of his tendency to criticise and ridicule the con- 
ventional religion and theology, he has, in fact, been regarded 
as the precursor of the modern freethinker, the Voltaire of 
the sixteenth century, the ancestor of the age of enlighten- 
ment, as the eighteenth century has been called. The 

* Drumxnond, i. 326. 

" Pineau, " itiasrae, sa Pensee Religieuse," 260-261 (1923). See 
also Lindeboom, " Onderzoek naar zijne Theologie " (1909); Renaudet, 
" firasme, sa Pensee Religieuse et son Action," 6 f. (1927). 

"/&#., 234-235. 

M Ibid., 221; Ernst, "Die Frommigkeit des Erasmus," "Theol. 
Stud, und Krit." (1919), 72. 

Luther and Erasmus 227 

inference is rather far-fetched, if only in view of the fact that 
a precursor of Voltaire would hardly have spent the greater 
part of a laborious life in producing critical editions of the 
New Testament and the Fathers for the purpose of contribut- 
ing to the knowledge of early Christianity, in place of the 
current ecclesiastical and scholastic development of it, and 
thereby restoring and strengthening the Church and the 
religious life. Whilst attacked and decried by his 
obscurantist opponents and even accused by the Sorbonne 
of heresy, he was hailed by his admirers, with exaggeration 
no doubt, as the prince of theologians, and was a sincere 
believer in the Christianity of the New Testament and the 
Fathers, if not in its later scholastic and ecclesiastical 
development. Moreover, it is rather hazardous to see or 
seek in German humanism, as represented by Erasmus, an 
anticipation of modern freethought. 34 It is in general too 
much limited by its subservience to the mediaeval principle 
of authority to anticipate a Bayle or a Voltaire, and there 
is a danger in such judgments in unduly " modernising " 
Erasmus. Ritter, in fact, contends, as against Dilthey, 
Troeltsch, and Wernle, that Erasmus, in spite of his critical 
and reactionary attitude towards the Church and its 
institutions and theology, did not essentially go beyond 
the standpoint of mediaeval piety. 35 At the same time, 
there is undoubtedly a modern note in the tendency freely, 
if tentatively, to apply the critical, rational method to the 
interpretation of the New Testament and the dogmas and 
institutions of the Church, which he owed to Laurentius 
Valla, and to conceive of Christianity in the larger spirit 
of a Ficino, Pico, 36 and the Italian Platonists who sought 
to reconcile Christ and Plato. 

It thus appears that there was a good deal in common 

* 4 See Ritter, " Die Geschichtliche Bedeutung des Deutschen Hum- 
anismus," "Hist. Zeitschrift " (1923), 416. "In der Geschichte der 
Wissenschaft (von der Theologie sei hier zunachst abgesehen) bedeutet 
der Humanismus noch nicht der Anfang des modernen Denkens "; 
cf. 446-448. 

" Ibid., 442-445- 

* For the influence of Pico on Erasmus see Pusino, " Der Ein- 
fluss Picos auf Erasmus," "Z.K.G " (1928), 75 f - ' and 

228 Luther and the Reformation 

between the standpoints of the two reformers. Up to a 
point, they were undoubtedly allies in the same cause, and 
to this extent there is plausibility in the assumption of their 
opponents that, in the matter of what they deemed heresy, 
Luther was simply the alter ego of Erasmus. Nevertheless, 
the assumption was substantially baseless. A fundamental 
difference lies in the fact that Erasmus came to his reforming 
standpoint primarily from the humanist and only secondarily 
from the religious approach. His progress as a reformer was 
mainly on the line of critical, rational thought. " Erasmus/' 
judges Mestwerdt in his recent book on the early religious and 
intellectual milieu in which he grew up, " is neither exclus- 
ively nor predominantly a religious character. Much rather 
is the religious motive only one among many." 87 Luther, 
on the other hand, was led to his reforming standpoint 
almost exclusively by way of the religious approach. For 
him the religious motive is the dominating one, the humanist 
only of secondary importance. His activity as a reformer was 
due first and foremost to his personal religious experience 
to the struggle to find a gracious God in the face of the 
overwhelming sense of human sin and the divine righteous- 
ness, from which he had ultimately found deliverance in 
his distinctive apprehension of the Pauline doctrine of 
justification by faith. Erasmus, on the contrary, had known 
nothing of this convulsive conflict with the problem of 
human sin and divine righteousness. He had grown to 
manhood in the religious atmosphere of the " Devotio 
Moderna," as represented by the Brethren of the Common 
Life or Lot, 38 which, while fostering a living personal piety 
in contrast to the ecclesiastical type (the Devotio Antiqua), 
and striving to reform the degenerate Church, kept essentially 

540-451 . Pusino would assign to Pico the main influence in shaping his 
ideas, as the "Enchiridion" shows, and to Colet the inspiration to 
advocate a thorough practical reform of the Church. See also Renaudet, 
" Prreforme et Humanisme & Paris " (1916). 

57 " Die Anfange des Erasmus, Humanismus und * Devotio 
Moderna/ " 10 (1917). This gifted young scholar fell in the war, 
and the work, which was published after his death, was thus unfinished, 

8i According to Prof. Whitney " Lot " is the more correct term. 
Art. on Erasmus in the " English Hist. Review," 1920, in which he 
also emphasises the debt of Erasmus to the Brethren. 

Luther and Erasmus 229 

within the limit of the traditional orthodoxy. 39 This " devo- 
tion," coupled with his early religious training, became, 
according to Mestwerdt, the dominating influence in 
moulding his career as the greatest of contemporary scholars 
and the protagonist of a practical reformation. Mestwerdt 
tends, however, to exaggerate this influence, and Pusino, 
whilst admitting its predominance in his earlier period, 
argues with no little force that there is little trace of it in 
his later years, and that his distinctive position as a reformer 
was mainly fashioned in the humanist mould. 40 

The historians have differed as to the character of this 
reformation in view of his somewhat enigmatic personality. 
There is, indeed, great difficulty in exactly fixing his position 
as a religious reformer. Though he could be militant and 
trenchant enough as a critic of manifest evils, he was char- 
acteristically cautious and evasive when it came to anything 
like a crisis for himself and his cause. Very unlike Luther, he 
hesitated to declare himself decisively in such a contingency, 
by reason of his innate prudence and fear of consequences. 
When Luther would say, " Perish the consequences/' Erasmus 
was disposed to ask, " What will be the consequences ? " 
Whereas Luther, for example, stands up to the Sorbonne 
doctors, who accuse him of heresy and blasphemy, and 
pays them back in their own coin with compound interest, 
Erasmus is prone to be apologetic and evasive. Hence, 
in part at least, the divergence in judging his attitude to the 
Church and determining his religious position. Neither 
Roman Catholic nor Protestant writers are agreed on the 

3 * Devotio moderna and Devotio antiqua are not to be identified with 
the Via moderna and the Via antiqua as technically applied to the 
controversy in the schools in the fifteenth century. These latter phrases 
denote the distinction in method and matter between the Neo-Thomist 
and the Occamist schools of theology and philosophy. The distinctive 
contentions of these parties have been recently expounded by Ritter, 
" Studien zur Spatscholastik," ii. (1922), in which the author con- 
troverts Hermelink's theses (in " Religiose Reformbestrebungen des 
Deutschen Humanismus," 1907) that German humanism was an indigen- 
ous product and that it grew out of and was closely allied with the pre- 
Reformation reforming movement within the Church. It is a masterly 
exposition and discussion of the late scholasticism. 

" {k Z.K G. " (1925), 625. 

230 Luther and the Reformation 

question. Whilst among Roman Catholics Neve regards him 
as a consistent adherent of the Roman Church, 41 Janssen 
denies him this privilege. 42 The Protestant Hermelink con- 
tends that his thought does not outstrip the Roman Catholic 
standpoint, 43 whilst other Protestant writers assign him a 
middle position between the two, or assert his independence 
of both. The fact seems to be that while his personal religion 
was mainly shaped in the mould of the prevalent piety of 
the Netherlands reforming circle within the limit of the 
Church, he was a sort of free-lance in theology in the spirit 
of a Valla, a Pico, and a Ficino, who, in spite of their free and 
large-minded humanist standpoint, could accommodate their 
criticism or their Platonism to the conventional orthodoxy. 
It is, indeed, very characteristic of Erasmus that he could 
with remarkable liberality apply on occasion the Pauline 
axiom to be all things to all men, though hardly in the 
Pauline spirit. He was ready to pay a large tribute to 
opinion, and M. Pineau concludes that he would heartily 
have subscribed to the saying of Montaigne, " The wise man 
should retire within himself from the crowd and preserve 
his soul in liberty to judge freely of things. As to the 
external world he ought to follow entirely the received 
fashions and forms." M This is perhaps too opportunist 
a dictum to apply to him in view of his strenuous and even 
militant attack on conventional religion. At the same time, 
it might be almost paralleled from some of his own admissions 
in the face of compromising and dangerous situations, and it 
must be remembered that, in satirising and criticising 
ecclesiastical institutions or dogmas, he was expressing not 
merely his own but a widespread public opinion. What is 
lacking in him, compared with Luther, is just the power of 
passionate religious conviction, coupled with a dominating 
will power, which underlies and inspires both thought and 
action and expresses itself in imperative assertion. 

In this respect also there could be no real fellowship 

41 * La Renaissance des Lettres en Belgique " (1890). 

42 * History of the German People," iii. 8 f. 

41 * Die Religiosen Reformbestrebungen des deutschen Humanis- 
mus,' 32(1907). 

44 * Erasrne," preface. 

Luther and Erasmus 231 

between the impassioned and insistent monk and enigmatic 
and rather opportunist scholar. Luther could not under- 
stand or appreciate a man who was too prone to express 
certain ideas and then, if need be, recede from them, and 
whose " greatest audacities are tempered by restrictions/' 
to use the words of Pineau. 45 Luther and his friends were, 
however, apt too hastily to see in him only the dissembler 
and the egoist. The self played, indeed, its characteristic 
part in shaping his life. But his egotism was by no means 
the thing that conditioned his attitude towards the Lutheran 
movement. He believed in culture as a good in itself. He 
believed, further, in its power to effect gradually the amend* 
ment of the Church and society and raise both to a higher 
plane. He relied on the informed reason, rather than on 
the impassioned soul, for the enlightenment and betterment 
of humanity. His mind was free alike from mysticism and 
religious enthusiasm and was inclined to scepticism rather 
than to dogmatism, whether scholastic or Lutheran. To 
Luther his rationalism was Antichristian, his plea for a 
rational faith an offence against the Gospel. He himself 
could appeal to reason on occasion and exercise it critically 
even on the Scriptures, but on the Occamist understanding 
that reason was strictly subordinate to faith ; whereas 
Erasmus would go the length of including Plato, Cicero, 
Socrates among the saints. He refuses to believe, with 
Augustine and Luther, that the virtues of these pagans 
are only splendid vices. The great company of the faithful 
is not confined to the Roman calendar. Above all, his failure 
to appreciate the Lutheran distinction between faith and 
works, or subscribe to the dogma of the unmitigated corruption 
of human nature and the total impotence of the will, was in 
itself an insuperable barrier to anything like a feasible 
alliance between them. His conception of Christianity was 
not conditioned by any such haunting sense of original and 
actual sin. It is rather that of the Sermon on the Mount 
than of the Epistles to the Romans and Galatians. For 
him it consists in the knowledge of the divine will in Christ, 
which is the norm and the inspiration of the Christian life. 

s " rasme," 244. 

232 Luther and the Reformation 

His view of it is the moralist rather than the distinctively 
Pauline one. For both, theology is the formulation of the 
religious life, not of abstract dogma. But then the experience 
of Erasmus differs materially from that of Luther, who was 
incapable of seeing that any other formulation of it could 
possibly be right. " The human/' wrote Luther to Lang 
early in March 1517, " avails more with Erasmus than the 
divine." 46 There is too much of free will and too little 
of God's grace in him. 

Moreover, like most of the humanists he had a nervous 
dread of the people, of anything likely to excite " tumult/* 
revolution. He lives apart from the common people. His 
appeal is confined to the cultured class. He does not, like 
Luther or Hutten, appeal to the masses in the common 
tongue, 47 though it should not be forgotten that he wished 
the Bible to be given to the people in the vernacular. As a 
cosmopolitan he was a stranger to the national sentiment 
which, even in Luther, contributed to nurture the militant 
antagonism to Rome. To a man of Luther's bellicose 
temperament this nervous dread of tumult, in the face of 
the imperative necessity of appealing to the popular 
intelligence as well as the cultured intellect, was nothing 
but an evidence of moral weakness, culpable indifference. 
In addition to irreconcilability on dogmatic grounds, this 
was the thing that ultimately turned the scale of Erasmus's 
judgment against the Wittenberg Reformer, in spite of the 
fact that he himself had gone far to undermine some of the 
institutions and dogmas of the Church. Reform, yes ; 
revolution, never, is his characteristic position. He will 
only countenance a gradual amendment of what is amiss 
in the Church and in theology. Luther, on the other hand, 
though temperamentally so conservative, will end, if he 
cannot amend, and will in any case only amend on his 
own conditions. In other words, if the Roman Antichrist 
will not give way on the issue of a radical reformation of 
doctrine as well as institutions, he will renounce his authority 
and will be the instrument in God's hand of his overthrow, 

" Enders, i. 88. 

47 " Erasmus," says Mestwerdt, "zeigt sich als wiirdiger Schuler 
fast aller Humanisten wenn er die Masse zu verachten lehrt," 208. 

Luther and Erasmus 233 

or die in the attempt. For Erasmus this alternative is a 
sheer impossibility. If it comes to this he would, he said, 
play the part of Peter over again. He preferred the more 
comfortable belief that reason, in virtue of the diffusion 
of true knowledge, the exercise of good sense, will ultimately 
prevail in the warfare with corruption and error. A 
problematic as well as a comfortable belief. For Erasmus, 
as for Burke, change can only be the work of time. But 
what if the fullness of time had come, when the issue was 
not merely to amend but to deliver the Church from the 
papal absolutism and the corruption and oppression for which 
it stood ? Nothing short of a revolution could accomplish 
this, however desirable it might be to change things by 
force of argument and criticism. For this mission only a 
Luther could suffice, and an Erasmus could at most only 
contribute to pave the way for it. He was totally unfit 
to face Nemesis, much less to be the instrument of it. This 
heroic, elemental role is reserved for the prophet, not for 
the critic and the scholar. 48 

As we have seen, Luther had become aware of the funda- 
mental difference between his theological standpoint and 
that of Erasmus as early as 1516. Erasmus preferred 
Jerome and Origen to Augustine. Luther's preference was 
for Augustine and Paul whom, he thought, Erasmus mis- 
interpreted. At the same time, he admired his learning and 
acknowledged his merits as a reforming scholar. Whilst 
dissenting from his theology, he refrained from publicly 
criticising it in order not to appear to abet the enemies of 
the great humanist and, in the letter to Lang in March 1517, 
spoke of him as " Our Erasmus." 49 He himself at this stage 
of his career had too many enemies to make one of Erasmus, 
and under Melanchthon's influence he sent him a letter in 

48 In his Hulsean lectures on " Erasmus the Reformer," Mr Binns 
champions the Erasmian conception of reform. He seems to me to be 
over-sanguine. Moreover, in his admiration for Erasmus, he is rather 
unfair to Luther. His one-sided lecture on the great Reformer is evidently 
not based on a first-hand knowledge of his writings, as in the case of 
his study of Erasmus. It consists of a series of generalisations based 
on second-hand sources. 

49 Enders, i. 88. Richter, "Erasmus und seine Stellung zu Luther," 
8, erroneously says the letter was written to Spalatin. 

234 Luther and the Reformation 

March 1519, in which he begged him to recognise him as a 
little brother in Christ. 50 On his side, Erasmus, in letters to 
Lang and others, had approved generally of the theses 
against indulgences and of his manful efforts to vindicate 
them against his opponents, whilst deprecating aggressive 
theological controversy and expressing his own neutrality. 
To Luther himself he adopted the same tone in a rather 
non-committal though kindly reply to his letter, and did 
him the material service of strongly commending him to 
the protection of the Elector of Saxony (i4th April 1519). a 
Six months later he intervened in his behalf in a remarkable 
missive to the Archbishop of Maintz, in which he vigorously 
denounced the odious and shortsighted policy of persecution 
adopted towards him by the theologians of Louvain and 
elsewhere, who were also his own enemies. " Men who 
above all others it beseems to practise meekness seem to 
thirst for nothing else but human blood, so eager are they 
that Luther should be seized and destroyed. Their conduct 
is worthy of the butcher, not the theologian. If they wish 
to show themselves great theologians, let them convert the 
Jews, let them bring the pagans to Christ, let them amend 
the morals of Christendom which are more corrupt than those 
of the Turks. How can it be right that he should be dragged 
to punishment who at first merely proposed for discussion 
certain questions on which the schoolmen have always 
disputed and even doubted ? Why should he be punished 
who wishes to be taught, who is willing to submit himself 
to the judgment of the Holy See, and has agreed to refer his 
cause to that of the universities ? But if he will not trust 
himself in the hands of those who wish rather to destroy 
than justify him, this ought certainly not to appear strange. 
... In former times a heretic was heard with due respect 
and absolved if he gave satisfaction. If, on conviction, he 
persisted in his errors, the extreme penalty was that he was 
not admitted to catholic and ecclesiastical communion. 

50 Enders, i. 490. In the preface to the " Commentary on Galatians " 
he refers to him as Erasmo, viro in Theologia summo et invidiae quoque 
victore. " Werke," ii. 449, Sept. 1519. 

"Allen, "Erasmi Epistolse," iii., i4th April 1519; Kalkoff, 
" Erasmus, Luther, und Friedrich der Weise," 36 f. 

Luther and Erasmus 235 

Now the crime of heresy is deemed much more serious, and 
yet for any light cause forthwith they shout * Heresy/ 
' Heresy/ Formerly he was esteemed a heretic who 
dissented from the Gospels and the articles of faith, or from 
those doctrines which were held to be of equal authority. 
Nowadays, if anyone differs from Thomas Aquinas, he is 
decried as a heretic ; nay, he is a heretic if he demurs to any 
disputatious effusion which some sophist yesterday fabricated 
in the schools. Whatever they don't like, whatever they 
don't understand is heresy* To know Greek is heresy. To 
speak grammatically is heresy. Whatever/- they do not do 
themselves is heresy. I confess that it is a grave crime 
to vitiate the faith. But every subject ought not to be turned 
into a question of faith. And those who treat of matters of 
faith ought to be free from any species of ambition, greed, 
hatred, or revenge." 52 

He even ventured in an apologetic letter to the Pope ** 
(i3th September 1520) to asperse the reprehensible methods 
of his opponents and, though disowning all complicity 
with Luther's views, spoke approvingly of his gifts and 
discriminated between his good and bad qualities. Even 
after the papal condemnation he suggested to the Elector 
Frederick the reference of his case to a commission of learned 
men and exerted himself to win the imperial ministers for 
his plan. 64 

Whilst thus actively befriending him against his 
opponents, who were also his own, and working behind the 
scenes to further his cause even after the papal condemna- 
tion, he was not prepared to follow him in his breach with 
Rome. As between Wittenberg and Rome there could be 
for him no question of neutrality. The dread of revolution, 
his inability to see eye to eye with him in theology, the 
shrinking also from personal risk, decided him to remain 
within the fold of Peter. "If it comes to revolution (ad 
extremum tumultum) and the state of the Church totters 
from both sides, I will meanwhile remain firmly fixed on the 

68 Allen, " Erasmi Epistolae," iii. 99 f. The whole letter is translated 
by Drummond, " Erasmus," ii. 32 f. See also Froude, " Life and 
Letters of Erasmus," 252-257. 

11 Ibid., iii. 344-346- * 4 Richter, 22. 

236 Luther and the Reformation 

rock of Peter until it shall become clear where the Church 
is. And so wherever there is evangelical peace, there will 
Erasmus be/' 65 " I would certainly rather have Luther 
corrected than destroyed," he assured the humanist secretary 
of the Prince of Nassau on the I3th March 1521, " but I 
shall not oppose if they roast or boil him. The fall of one 
man is a small matter, but I am very much concerned for 
the public tranquillity." 56 " Not all have sufficient strength 
to face martyrdom/' he wrote to Pace after Luther's heroic 
stand at Worms, " I fear I should act the part of Peter over 
again. I follow the Pope and the Emperor when they 
decide well, because it is pious to do so ; I bear their bad 
decisions, because it is safe to do so/' 57 His opportunism 
compares ill with Luther's heroism. Theology apart, Luther 
is morally greatly superior to his timid, if critical, well-wisher 
who, compared to him, is only an armchair reformer and 
would never have left his armchair to defy the Pope and 
face the Emperor and the Diet in defence of his convictions. 
Whilst ready, if need be, to leave Luther to his fate, 
he continued on occasion to protest against the outcry of 
the obscurantist zealots, who were anti-Erasmian as well 
as anti-Lutheran, and even to arraign the greed and tyranny 
of the Roman Curia and the oppression of Christian liberty 
by ecclesiastical ordinances. 58 He emphasised the folly 
and futility of seeking to suppress religious conviction by 
force. The love of the people for Luther was not so dead 
as his enemies imagined, he informed the President of the 
Grand Council at Malines. At Basle he hears that there 
are more than 100,000 men (in Germany) who hate the 
Roman See and approve of Luther. 69 He wrote to Duke 
George of Saxony and others in a similar strain against the 
policy of persecution. The Pope's Bull and the Emperor's 
Edict have only made matters worse. 60 He refrained, too, 

55 Allen, fv. 442. 

68 Ibid., iv. 453 ; cf. 458. Froude wrongly dates the letter I9th Nov. 
1521. " Erasmus," 300. 

57 Ibid., iv. 541, sth July 1521. 

18 Ibid., v* 44. Letter to La Mota, Bishop of Palencia, 2ist April 

" find., v. 83, I4th July 1522. 

Ibid., v. 126-128, Sept. 1522. 

Luther and Erasmus 237 

from entering the lists against the great heretic in spite of 
repeated and urgent requests from Duke George, the new 
Pope Hadrian VI., the King of England, and others, to 
write against him. He declined on the score of his health 
and his age the invitation of the Pope to come to Rome. 
He refused to write against Luther on the ground that what 
authority he formerly wielded availed not with either party, 
and that whatever he might write would find acceptance 
with neither. Of one thing he is certain. Force can be no 
remedy in a business of this kind. It will only tend to 
slaughter. Formerly it might prove serviceable against the 
Wiclifites in England, though even there heresy was scotched 
rather than killed. In Germany, where there is a multitude 
of contending rulers, the thing is impossible. Let the Pope, 
therefore, go to the root of the evil and before all begin the 
work of healing by drastic reform. Let him proclaim an 
amnesty to the erring. If God daily forgives the sinner, 
why should not His vicar? He might with advantage 
control the press, and the magistrates could effectively deal 
with sedition. He could show the world that grievances 
justly complained of will be redressed. He could restore 
liberty, to which the people have a just claim, without 
any real injury to religion. And he ends by suggesting 
the convention of what was evidently meant to be an 
international assembly of good men, though he breaks off 
in the middle of the sentence and leaves the reader to divine 
that he still contemplates the submission of the Lutheran 
controversy to an impartial arbitration tribunal. 61 

At the same time, the persistence with which his enemies 
aspersed his orthodoxy and identified his position with that 
of Luther, the fear that unless he declared himself against 
the heretic the ecclesiastical authorities would proceed 
against him as an accomplice, 62 the reiterated appeals from 
his patrons in high places were forcing him to face the 
alternative of publicly and definitely declaring himself for 
or against the heresiarch. The decision to choose the latter 
alternative owed something to the bitter attack of the 

" Allen, v. 257-261, 23rd March 1523. 

ta Kalkoff, " Die Stellung der Deutschen Humanisten zur Reforma- 
tion/' " Z.K.G.," 1928, 318 f. 

238 Luther and the Reformation 

fugitive Hutten who, in passing through Basle, had solicited 
and been refused an interview and avenged himself by 
publicly denouncing him in July 1523 as a turncoat and a 
coward. Hutten had some reason, apart from the personal 
one, for pointing out the inconsistency between his former 
trenchant attack on the Church and his present conservative 
attitude, though it by no means necessarily followed, as he 
contended, that it was due to cowardice and bribery. 63 
Erasmus repelled those charges in a lengthy vindication 
of his career as a reforming scholar and publicist, in which 
he maintains that he had not changed his attitude either 
towards the Church or towards Luther. 64 

He had by this time determined, though with reluctance, 
on an encounter with Luther himself. On the day after 
the publication of the " Spongia " he informed Henry VIII. 
that he was preparing an assault on the new dogmas. 65 
This seemed to him the only expedient for disproving the 
oft-repeated reproach of being a secret Lutheran. So far he 
had received no direct provocation from Luther himself, 
who disapproved of Hutten's violent polemic in his behalf as 
well as of Erasmus's bitter rejoinder. 66 Luther was, however, 
becoming impatient of what he deemed his lack of straight- 
forwardness and his pinpricks. He would far rather, he 
wrote to Spalatin on the I5th May 1522, have to deal with an 
Eck, who openly attacked his enemy, than with this shifty 
temporiser who played the part, now of friend, now of 
enemy. 87 Whilst admiring his scholarship, he had no 
great opinion of his ability as a theologian, and though he 
had no desire to provoke his enmity, he would not hesitate to 
take up the challenge if attacked. Erasmus will find in 
him a very different antagonist from Lefevre, whom he 
boasts of having vanquished. 68 He was becoming more and 

63 "Expostulate," " Hutteni Opera," ii. i'8o f. 

64 "Spongia Erasmi adversus Asperinges Hutteni," Sept. 1523. 

65 Allen, v. 330. Molior ahquid adversus nova dogmata, 4th Sept. 

66 Enders, jv. 234. 

87 Ibid., iii. 360. Melior est Eccius eo qui aperta fronte hostera 
profitetur. Hunc autem tergiversantem et subdolum, turn amicum, 
turn hostem detestor. 

68 Ibid., iii. 376. Letter to Borner, 28th May 1522. 

Luther and Erasmus 239 

more convinced that Erasmus was a mere trimmer in 
religion. " What Erasmus holds or feigns to believe in 
spiritual things," he wrote to Oecolampadius a year later 
(aoth June 1523), "both his early and his recent books 
abundantly testify. Although I feel Ms pricks here and 
there, nevertheless because he publicly pretends not to be 
an enemy, I also make-believe that I do not perceive his 
craftiness, although others see through him more than he 
reckons. He has performed the work for which he was 
destined. He has furthered the study of the classics and 
recalled men from impious sophistry. Perhaps like Moses 
he will die in the land of Moab, for to the higher pursuit of 
spiritual things he cannot lead. I could wish that he would 
refrain from writing of Holy Scripture, because he is not 
equal to this work, and only misleads his readers and hinders 
their advance in scriptural knowledge. He has done enough 
in exposing the evil. To show the good and lead men to 
the promised land is beyond his capacity " 69 

These letters came into Erasmus's hands and made 
him angry with the writer. " I only wish," he wrote to 
Zwingli on the 3ist August, " that he were the Joshua who 
is to lead us all into the promised land, and I should be glad 
to learn from you what are the spiritual things he speaks of. 
For myself I seem to have taught almost all that Luther 
teaches, except that I do not do this so savagely and that I 
have kept clear of certain enigmatic and paradoxical 
dogmas/' 70 " This outburst is the prelude to war," he 
angrily wrote to Faber three months later. 71 

The attempts of Zwingli and other friends to prevent the 
impending rupture were futile. In issuing a new edition 
of his " Commentary on Galatians," Luther suppressed the 
appreciative references to Erasmus. To Pellican he retorted 
that though he was sorry that his letters had been treacher- 
ously handed to Erasmus, he had learned to stand alone 
against the world and cared not for either his patronage or 
his enmity, since he does not truly understand Christianity. 
" Let Mm learn to know Christ and bid farewell to human 

Enders, iv. 164. n Ibid., v. 349, 2ist Nov. 1523. 

70 Allen, v. 329-330. 

240 Luther and the Reformation 

prudence. May the Lord illumine him and make another 
man of him. I bear him no ill-will, but I truly pity him." 72 
Six months later he told him directly, in a tone very different 
from that of the humble epistle of March 1519, to refrain 
from further concerning himself with him and his cause. 
The letter is that of a superior to an inferior both morally 
and spiritually. He bore him no grudge for siding with his 
enemies, the papists, in writing books in which he had 
bitterly attacked him in order to gain their favour or 
mitigate their fury against himself. God had not given 
him the fortitude to join with him in the battle with these 
monsters, and he would not dream of asking him to attempt 
what was quite beyond his powers. " We have chosen 
rather to bear your weakness and venerate the gift which 
God has given you. For the whole world cannot deny 
that the progress and flourishing state of letters, which tends 
to the true interpretation of the Bible, is a magnificent and 
excellent gift for which we ought to render thanks to God. 
I have never desired that you should give up or neglect 
your true vocation by concerning yourself with a business 
for which you have neither aptitude nor courage, and which 
is entirely outside your sphere." Only he warns him not, by 
continuing to asperse his method of conducting his cause 
and his teaching, to make it necessary for him to join issue 
with him. He sympathises with him in the sufferings which 
the zealots have caused him, and admits that he himself 
has written too bitterly against his opponents, though, 
considering the provocation he has received, he thinks that 
he has shown no little forbearance and clemency. He has 
hitherto refrained from attacking him in spite of his persist- 
ence in rejecting or misrepresenting his teaching, and will 
continue to do so as long as he does not come out into the 
open against him. His cause is now happily beyond the 
power of an Erasmus to harm, and he begs him to recognise 
the fact and abstain from his biting and bitter rhetoric 
and become simply a spectator of his tragedy. Mutual 
forbearance is the only fitting attitude. What a miserable 
spectacle it would be if they should start to destroy each 

71 Enders, iv. 334-235, 

Luther and Erasmus 241 

other, as it is most certain that neither really wishes ill to 
piety. 73 

In reply, Erasmus rebutted the assumption that he 
had done nothing for the Gospel, for which he had effected 
more than many who boasted the name of Evangelical. 
What to Luther was weakness was to him a matter of 
conscience and judgment. The Gospel had been made a 
handle for sedition, the destruction of learning, and the 
rupture of friendships. It bade fair to become the occasion 
of a bloody revolution, and he can on no account consent to 
make it a pretext for the play of human passions. He had 
hitherto not written against him for fear of hindering its 
advancement, and had contented himself with repudiating 
the charge that he was in secret agreement with him in all 
his opinions. If he had consulted his private advantage, 
nothing would have brought him greater favour and fortune. 
It might even be of more advantage to the Gospel to do so 
in opposition to the writings of certain stupid scribblers, 
who champion Luther's cause and bring discredit on the 
Gospel. On this account alone he cannot consent to be a 
mere spectator of this tragedy. 74 

It did Luther no harm to be reminded that others had a 
right to their opinions, even if they differed from him, and 
that there might be more than one view of the Gospel and a 
different way of serving it from that of the more rabid of 
his professed adherents. On the other hand, by his heroism 
in risking all for his convictions and spurning compromise 
on the essential issue, Luther had certainly won the right 
to rebuke him for his tendency to hedge on this issue 
which he had himself contributed to raise, and telling 
him to mind his own business and keep his opinion to 

From the tenor of Erasmus's reply, it is evident that 
he had made up his mind to join in the fray on the side of 
Luther's opponents. The projected deliverance had, in 
fact, in substance, if not in form, already taken shape, 
though its actual composition occupied him but a few 

78 Enders, iv. 319-322, middle of April 1524. 
74 Allen, v. 451-453. 8th May 1524. 

242 Luther and the Reformation 

days. 75 The printing of the " De Libero Arbitrio " was 
completed by Froben of Basle in August 1524, and in the 
beginning of September Erasmus sent presentation copies 
to Henry VIII., Pope Clement VIL, Wolsey, Duke George 
of Saxony, and other high patrons. "The die is cast," 
wrote he to Henry. " My book on Free Will has seen the 
light. An audacious villany, as things now stand in 
Germany ! I expect to be stoned/' 78 


In choosing his theme Erasmus was attacking a central 
position of Luther's theology. Luther's personal experience of 
the fact of human sin and divine righteousness seemed 
to him to necessitate the complete impotence of the will 
and the worthlessness of human works for salvation, and 
led him to formulate the conviction as a theological axiom 
in the most uncompromising fashion. Both envisage the 
problem from the theological rather than the philosophical 
standpoint. It is not for either a question of the power of 
the will considered in itself, but of its power from the religious 
point of view. The specific point is whether and how far 
the will contributes to the attainment of eternal life ? Luther 
answers the question with an uncompromising negative, 
and the negative is for him so vital that any attempt to 
modify it (and this is what Erasmus attempted) seemed to 
endanger his whole teaching. It lay at the root both of his 
religious experience and his antagonism on dogmatic grounds 
to the teaching of the Church and the schoolmen. Erasmus 
alone of all his opponents, he said, had laid his finger on 
the cardinal point of the whole matter and had seized him 
by the throat. 77 Not only his reputation as a theologian, 

"See von Walter, " De Libero Arbitrio," Introd. 11-12 (1910), 
in " Quellen schriften zur Geschichte des Protestantismus." Zickendraht 
shows that already in 1522 he was reflecting on the question of free will as 
the differentiating point between him and Luther. See " Eine Anonyme 
Kundgebung des Erasmus aus dem Jahre 1522," " Z.K.G.," 1908. 

78 Allen, v. 541, 6th Sept. 1524. 

77 " Werke," xviii. 786. 

Erasmus against Luther 243 

if not his work as a reformer, but his very salvation seemed 
at stake. 

In the introductory part of his work 78 Erasmus claims 
the right to dissent from Luther, who himself exercises this 
right in refusing to recognise the authority of the doctors of 
the Church or even of Pope and cardinals. He is, therefore, 
unable to understand why he and his adherents should 
resent such a free discussion. His only object is to explore 
the truth and he will (and on the whole does) conduct 
the discussion in this spirit, though he is conscious of his 
unfitness for such a task. He is by nature, he says, inclined 
to scepticism, not to dogmatism, and whilst prepared 
implicitly to receive the dogmas of the Church, even when 
his reason revolts against them, condemns the opinionated 
and non-objective controversial method of his opponents 
He believes in a certain freedom of the will, and after reading 
Luther's contention to the contrary, 79 has found no reason 
to change his view. He recognises Luther's intellectual 
power, and if his adherents draw odious comparisons between 
Luther's gifts and his, let them remember that to their 
master himself the enlightenment of the Spirit of God is 
far more important than theological learning. He may have 
misunderstood Luther's teaching. But they must allow 
him to exercise his right to dispute with him, if only that he 
may thereby learn to know better. It is as a seeker of 
truth, not as a judge or a dogmatist, that he ventures on 
this debate. This is the right attitude for moderately gifted 
individuals like himself to adopt. There are difficult 
passages in Scripture which are meant to impress on us the 
inscrutable majesty of the divine wisdom and the limits 
of human knowledge of divine things. Curious speculations 
about these mysteries are reprehensible. The imperative 
thing is to strive, in dependence on God's help, to overcome 
sin, imputing the good to Him, the evil to ourselves, believing 
in the justice and goodness of God and eschewing these 
speculations about God's decrees and human freedom, etc. 

78 " De Libero Arbitno Diatribe," edited by von Walter (1910), 
and in vol. ix. of " Erasmi Opera " (1540). 

7 * In the " Assertio omnium Articulorum," wbich he has particularly 
in view throughout the discussion. 

244 Luther and the Reformation 

Many things have not been revealed or only partially made 
known by God, and some things, even if fully known, it is 
not expedient to proclaim to the multitude. This would 
apply to Luther's teaching even if it were true, since it tends 
to nurture moral laxity. As the Scripture is adapted to 
our understanding, so the preachers of the Gospel ought to 
refrain from presenting the extreme doctrine of the enslaved 
will to the people in view of its pernicious effects. 

Since Luther admits no authority outside the Scriptures, 
Erasmus is saved the trouble of examining the opinions of 
the Greek and Latin Fathers on free will. He will, therefore, 
limit the discussion to the relative passages in the Old and 
New Testaments. At the same time, he reminds the reader 
that none of the ancients or the scholastic doctors has totally 
rejected the freedom of the will except Manicheus and John 
Wiclif. Though the vote of the majority is no guarantee 
of truth, due weight should surely be attached to the opinion 
of so many doctors, saints, martyrs, councils, popes, as 
against the private judgment of one or two individuals. 
Surely the Greek and Latin Fathers were better fitted by 
their linguistic knowledge and their holiness of life to 
interpret the Scriptures than these new evangelical preachers, 
who cannot be compared to them in either respect. The 
clarity of Scripture on this subject is disproved by the 
variety of opinions throughout the ages. Even in Apostolic 
times the gift of prophecy was necessary to interpret it. 
His opponents appeal to the testimony of the Spirit of 
God in them. But the Spirit is more likely to operate in 
the ordained priesthood than in these claimants to its 
exclusive possession, though he admits that in Scripture 
it is promised to the simple and foolish in the eyes of the 
world. In this case the injunction of Paul to try the 
spirits is imperative at a time when both sides claim the 
guidance of the Spirit. The age of miracles has ceased, 
and would God we had in place of miracles the pure life of 
the Apostles. To criticise the priesthood is no proof of the 
exclusive possession of the Spirit, and it is impossible to 
believe that it has allowed the Church to err for 1,300 
years. 80 

Q " DC Lib. Arbitrio," 1-18, von Walter's edition. 

Erasmus against Luther 245 

He proceeds to examine, in the first place, the passages 
of the Old and New Testaments, which plainly establish the 
freedom of the will, and, in the second place, to explain 
those which seem to exclude it, on the principle that the 
Scripture, being inspired by the Spirit, cannot contradict 

Free will, from the theological point of view, he defines, 
following Lombardus, as the power by which man may 
apply himself to those things which lead to eternal life, 
or turn away from them. 81 According to Scripture, man was 
created free. But in consequence of the misuse of his 
freedom he lost it and became the slave of sin. The light 
of reason and the power of the will, which is denved from 
reason, were, however, not thereby completely extinguished, 
though the will was rendered inefficacious to do the good. 82 
He retained a certain knowledge of God and power of 
virtuous living, as the life and teaching of the philosophers 
show, though he could not attain to eternal salvation without 
the grace which comes through faith. The fact of the law 
and man's responsibility for its transgression prove that he 
retained the power of choosing between good and evil. If 
the will was not free, sin could not be imputed to him. 
Sin involves free will. Though the will received a wound 
through the fall, and man became more prone to the evil 
than the good, it was not completely destroyed. 83 Opinion 
as to the extent of this freedom has varied, as a reference 
to the views of Pelagius, Augustine, and Scotus shows, 
and he declares the most probable view to be that which, 
differing from Pelagius, ascribes most to grace and almost 
nothing to free will in the attainment of salvation, whilst 
not totally denying its freedom. This he evidently regards, 
though not quite correctly, as the position of Augustine, 
and he contrasts it with the determinism of Luther who 
regards free will as an empty name (inane nomen), ascribes 

81 "De Lib. Arbitrio," 19; "Opera," ix. 1002. Porro liberum 
arbitrium hoc loco sentimus vim humanae voluntatis qua se possit homo 
applicare ad ea quae perducunt ad aeternam salutem aut ab lisdem avertere. 

82 Ibid.y 22. Ad honesta inefficacem esse factam. 

83 Ibid.* 25. Quamquam enim arbitrii libertas per peccatum vulnus 
accepit, non tamen extincta est. 

246 Luther and the Reformation 

both the good and the evil in man to God, and holds that 
all that happens does so in virtue of necessity (mera necessi- 
tatis). Against this extreme view he adduces a number 
of passages from the Old and New Testaments, which plainly 
imply the power to choose the good and the evil, and which 
are wholly meaningless without this implication. The 
frequent exhortations to do the good, the promise of reward, 
the threat of punishment are indubitably addressed to those 
who are capable of moral action, and are not merely the 
mechanical instruments of the divine will. Moreover, sayings 
of Jesus and Paul as well as of Moses and the prophets, 
which he quotes and examines, allow of no other conclusion, 
in spite of the contentions of Wiclif and Luther to the 
contrary. 8 * 

But what of the passages which seem to militate against 
the freedom of the will and ascribe to God's decree all the 
good and evil we do ? What, for instance, of the hardening 
of Pharaoh's heart and Paul's reasoning in the ninth chapter 
of Romans on this and similar passages of the Old Testament ? 
In such passages Paul does seem to attribute nothing to 
human agency and to exclude free will. It is absurd, he 
replies, following Origen, to make God, who is just and 
good, the author of human wickedness. God only makes 
use of Pharaoh's wickedness to attain His purpose. In 
virtue of this wickedness Pharaoh could only do evil, just 
as rain can only bring forth thorns and thistles out of bad 
soil and good fruit out of good. It depends on the disposition 
of the individual what God does with it. God only foresaw 
what would happen in Pharaoh's case. But he did not 
foreordain it. Foreseeing a thing is not the same as fore- 
ordaining it. He is not, therefore, the cause of Pharaoh's 
action. The ultimate causality of God in relation to human 
action is, indeed, a very difficult question. What God 
foresaw He must in some way have willed, since He did 
not hinder it, though it was in His power to do so. He 
really willed that Pharaoh should perish, and justly so by 
reason of his wickedness. Nevertheless, it was not because 
of God's will that he persisted in his wickedness and perished, 

" " De Lib. Arbitrio," 19-46. 

Erasmus against Luther 247 

but of his persistence in his evil course, due to his wicked 
nature. God co-operates with human action. But the evil 
in this action does not proceed from Him, but from the 
human will. 85 To posit that man acts in virtue of a pure 
and perpetual necessity is to take away the possibility of 
merit and all distinction between good and evil. In opposi- 
tion to this monstrous determinism he expounds this and 
other passages in order to harmonise the fact of God's grace 
and man's free will. 86 With the aid of Bishop Fisher's 
" Confutatio/' 87 he then reviews the passages which Luther 
adduces in his " Assertio J> on behalf of the dogma of the 
total impotence of the will and the utter nullity of man's 
works. He thinks that the overwhelming testimony of 
Scripture is against this extreme dogma and, in virtue of 
this test, claims to have the best of the argument. 88 

In the concluding part he seeks to uphold his own 
moderate position against the extremists on both sides 
those who assume the complete freedom of the will, on the 
one hand, and the total suppression of it, on the other. He 
has no little sympathy with Luther's teaching, which tends 
to lead man to depend wholly on God, to humble himself 
before Him, to subject himself wholly to the divine will, 
to magnify His immense mercy freely bestowed, to realise 
his own weakness and misery, to confide entirely in God's 
grace and not in his own merits, to give all the glory to His 
grace and goodness, and frankly acknowledge the working 
of His grace within him. All this evokes his whole-hearted 
appreciation, and one feels that, but for this unfortunate 
dogma, Erasmus is inclined to go with Luther rather than 
his opponents, is really, as he himself confessed to Zwingli, 
almost at one with his evangelical teaching, in spite of his 
repeated prudent disclaimers to the contrary. But he 
strongly objects to his determinism which makes man act 

S6 "De Lib. Arbitrio," 53. Negari non potest quin ad omnem 
actum concurnt operatic divina. . . . Ceterum actus malitia non 
proficiscitur a deo, sed a nostra voluntate. 

** Ibid., 45-61. 

37 Zickendraht has shown his indebtedness to Fisher's book against 
Luther's "Assertio," "Der Streit Zwischen Erasmus und Luther" 


' De Lib. Arbitrio," 61-77. 

248 Luther and the Reformation 

in virtue of absolute necessity, represents him as so much 
clay in the potter's hands, destroys the belief in his moral 
personality, declares all his works, even the pious ones, to 
be sinful, and does away with merit and reward. How can 
this harmonise with the language of Scripture, which speaks 
of God's children walking righteously before Him, which 
praises those who keep His commandments and punishes 
those who break them ? How can man be judged for what 
he does if he cannot do otherwise than as God has decreed ? 
What is the meaning of all these exhortations, threats, 
warnings, punishments ? What is the use of praying for 
anything, if He has resolved to give or not to give according 
only to His pleasure ? Why speak of reward if there is no 
such thing as merit ? How can it be just to give grace to 
some and eternal damnation to others, if, on the theory of 
the unfree will, all are incapable of doing anything good and 
must do what they do in virtue of God's decree ? 

He sympathises, too, with the emphasis laid by Luther on 
faith as the source of and the important thing in the religious 
life. But he holds that faith springs from love, if love also 
springs from faith and is nurtured and maintained by faith. 
Nor can he accept Luther's doctrine of original sin, which 
exaggerates sin to such a degree that man by nature cannot 
but hate God and that even the works of those that are 
justified by faith are necessarily, in themselves, sinful. 
All such exaggerations are obnoxious to him, and he depre- 
cates Luther's tendency to dogmatise so rashly on the 
divine decrees which are to us inscrutable and insoluble, 
especially as Luther and his adherents (Carlstadt) are not at 
one in their dogmatism. This dogmatism makes God a 
cruel tyrant and is fitted to produce, and does indeed 
produce, the worst moral effect. Luther in his just reaction 
from the errors, exaggerations, and evils rampant in the 
Church and the schools has gone to the other extreme and 
himself fallen into error and exaggeration. Hence this 
torrent of disputation and recrimination, this conflict between 
Achilles and Hector, which, being waged with equal fierceness, 
death alone can end. In the quest for truth this extreme 
virulence is out of place, and for himself he will follow the 
middle way of moderation. " Pelagius," he concludes, 

Erasmus against Luther 249 

" seems to attribute more than enough to free will ; Scotus 
rather abundantly. Luther began by only mutilating it, 
but, not content with this, erelong strangled it and rejected 
it entirely. For my part, I prefer the opinion of those who 
attnbute something to free will, but most to grace." 89 
This conclusion, he thinks, is not antagonistic to the essential 
part of Luther's teaching on faith and works, and whilst 
warning against the rash rejection of the teaching of so 
many doctors of the Church for the sake of so paradoxical 
a dogma, ends, as he had begun, in a conciliatory tone. 00 

The " De Libero Arbitrio " is in some respects a remark- 
able performance. Erasmus adopts a reasonable and 
moderate tone which lends a well-merited distinction to his 
work compared with the theological polemics of the day. 
He refrains from personal objurgation, and in this he shows 
both his scholarly taste and a due sense of the true method 
to be adopted by a searcher after truth. His rebuke of the 
noisy and contentious dogmatism of some of the evangelical 
preachers is, from this point of view, very much to the 
point. Granting Luther's position, though not quite assent- 
ing to it, that Scripture is the sole authority on a question 
of this kind, he subjects the sources to a careful and scholarly 
review, and strives to bring to bear on the solution of the 
problem the testimony of the evidence relative to it. He 
arrives at his conclusion as the result of this painstaking 
investigation, and there is no reason to doubt that he is, 
on this ground, a conscientious believer in the relative 
freedom of the will, theologically considered. There can be 
no doubt, for instance, that in emphasising the moral 
character of the divine government of the world and the 
indubitable evidence of the Mosaic law and the moral teach- 
ing of Scripture in support of man's moral personality, 
he was expressing a strongly felt conviction. 91 He strives 

89 " De Lib. Arbitrio," 90. fl Ibid., 77-92. 

" Zickendraht thinks that he was at heart a sceptic on the dogmatic 
aspect of free will, and only entered on this aspect of the question, in 
the main part of the work, in deference to the desire of his high patrons 
that he should do so. But while, on his own confession, inclined to 
scepticism, he does seem to be expressing certain definite convictions 
on the subject. 

250 Luther and the Reformation 

to be fair to Luther and, in spite of the odium of his name in 
orthodox and exalted circles, does not hesitate to emphasise 
the good side of his teaching, and even betrays the fact 
that he to a large extent sympathises with it and the 
Reformation movement. On the other hand, it is evident 
that his judgment of Luther and the evangelical movement 
is not a purely objective one. He is incapable of understand- 
ing or appreciating a train of thought springing from a 
religious experience so different from his own, or a personality 
which could only express itself and achieve its mission in the 
elemental fashion so distasteful to him, Moreover, he is apt 
to view Luther in the light of the personality and conduct 
of some of his followers, and make him responsible for the 
actions or excesses of which he disapproved and which he 
explicitly condemned. To judge from his representation 
of it the Reformation was pure and simple a destructive force, 
an anarchic movement subversive of order and morality. 
He ignored too much the constructive side of it, the profound 
religious genius and high ethical ideal at the back of it, the 
quickening of the spiritual and moral life which it brought 
about in the case of the better type of its adherents. He 
saw the shadow rather than the light. He does not realise 
that Luther's conviction of the impotence of the will to do 
the good sprang from his high ideal of the divine righteous- 
ness as well as from a pessimistic and too dogmatic conception 
of human nature, and that it was in the attempt to realise 
the high standard of this righteousness in the sight of a 
perfectly righteous God that he felt so keenly the utter 
insufficiency and impotence of his efforts. He does not realise 
the seriousness of the problem from this point of view, 
because he had not, like Luther, wrestled with it in conflict 
with the terrible reality that sin appeared to him, with his 
vivid imagination and consummate command of drastic 
expression. He is not, like Luther, obsessed with the necessity 
of being sure of his salvation, and does not appear to under- 
stand this frame of mind. Luther was no doubt guilty of 
exaggeration. But for the deeper thing that lay behind 
this characteristic and rather questionable gift, Erasmus 
has no adequate understanding. He fails, too, to do justice 
to the practical tendency of Luther's teaching. Luther is 

Luther against Erasmus 251 

not out to demoralise hi? generation by teaching a crass 
and immoral determinism. He was not so much concerned 
with the speculative aspect which, indeed, as he expounded 
it, and as Erasmus himself pointed out, was fitted to lead 
to very questionable results. He is out to bring man to God 
in Christ and, whilst emphasising the divine as against the 
human will, lays equal stress on the imperative necessity 
of self-discipline and service for others, as the result of 
the regeneration wrought by faith, which, if due to grace 
and not to works, is inherent in the new relation of the 
soul to God. Nor is Erasmus quite true to his principle 
of keeping solely to the evidence of the sources in discussing 
and judging the subject. While formerly waging war on 
the scholastic theology, he shows himself in this work a 
more receptive disciple of the schoolmen as well as the 
Fathers. He works with the apparatus of the scholastic 
theology as well as the original languages in interpreting 
the evidence of the Scriptures. He makes use of the con- 
ventional scholastic idea of prevenient, co-operative, effective 
grace, and has, unlike Luther, made no original contribution 
to the subject. He has, in fact, assimilated a good deal 
from this interminable argumentation and has thus consider- 
ably mitigated his former preference for the Gospel itself, 
apart from later variations of it. His exegesis of certain 
passages is sometimes fashioned to get over a difficulty 
and his profession of absolute submission to ecclesiastical 
authority, even against his reason, is irreconcilable with 
his professed desire to seek only the truth. In his desperate 
attempts to meet the objections or explain away the 
difficulties that bristle around the problem, he is not always 
consistent. The will, for instance, is inefficacious to do 
the good, and is, because of the fall, the slave of sin, yet 
we are told that its power of choice is not completely 


Luther by no means relished the " De Libero Arbitrio," 
although he did not consider it in itself a formidable per- 

252 Luther and the Reformation 

formance. 92 He had not read far, he tells us, before he felt 
inclined to pitch the volume under the table. But the 
reputation of Erasmus and the impression it made on both 
friends and foes, if not its intrinsic importance, made it 
necessary to reply to it. 93 Pressure of work and other cares 
prevented him from carrying out his purpose for nearly a 
year, and it was only in September 1525 that he found time 
to devote himself to this task. 94 He worked incessantly 
at it for the next two months, and in December it was issued 
from the press under the title of " De Servo Arbitrio." 95 

Whilst recognising his great literary and intellectual 
gifts, and his own inferiority to him in this respect, he tells 
him that his book contains nothing new 96 and is not to be 
compared with Melanchthon's " Loci Communes/' He is 
sorry that he has wasted his literary talent in such a concoc- 
tion which has both disgusted and angered him. His 
defence of free will is so worthless that he thanks him for 
having thereby strengthened his own belief to the contrary. 
He treats him as a novice in theology and vigorously rebuts 
his dislike of dogmatism and his tendency to scepticism. 
No one can be a Christian who is not certain of his beliefs 
and prepared whole-heartedly to confess his faith before 
men. " Take away this dogmatism and you deprive us of 
Christianity/' 97 The Spirit is given in order that it may 
convict and convince- Luther has no patience with the 
tendency to see both sides of the question in an essential 
matter of this kind. Scepticism is here absolutely inadmis- 
sible. It is all the more reprehensible inasmuch as Erasmus 
is prepared to accept the decrees of the Church even if he 
cannot comprehend or agree with them, merely because 
the Church prescribes what he is to believe and for the 
sake of peace, or to avoid personal danger. In this respect 
he is no better than sceptics like Lucian or Epicurus who 

* s Enders, v. 46. 

88 Ibid., v. 52. " Ibid., v. 245 and 247. 

** " Werke," xviii. 600 f. It is also given in "Opera Latina," 
vi.. ed. by Schmidt. 

* 8 Ibid., xviii. 600-601, in tanta re nihil dicis quod non dictum 
sit prius. 

7 Ibid., xviii. 603. Tolle assertiones et Christianisnium tulisti. 

Luther against Erasmus 253 

scoff at truth and regard all dogma as mere human opinion. 
He may, if he pleases, imitate the example of those who 
say, " They say and therefore I say ; they deny and there- 
fore I deny." But this way is not the Christian way. The 
Holy Spirit is no sceptic. 98 He holds that in all essentials of 
Christianity, of which this dogma is one, the testimony of 
Scripture is perfectly clear, though the enlightenment of the 
Spirit is necessary for a true spiritual understanding of it, 
and it contains obscure passages due to the difficulty of 
understanding the true meaning of the words. Its teaching 
is unmistakable and, in denying this, Erasmus is merely 
reflecting the sophistic view of the scholastic theologians 
who, under the inspiration of Satan, have displaced it by 
their pestiferous philosophy and, under this false pretext, 
have prevented the people from reading it. This is merely 
to shut one's eyes and say the sun is dark." You should 
quarrel not with Scripture, but with these sophists. 

Erasmus raises the question of authority. The doctors 
differ in their interpretation of Scripture. Where is the 
absolute test of the truth ? Authority, replies Luther, is 
twofold internal and external. It lies in the first place in 
the judgment of the individual believer, enlightened by 
God's Spirit, though he refuses to recognise the claim of the 
Zwickau prophets to the enlightenment of the Spirit. " The 
spiritual man judges all things." In the second place it 
resides in the public ministry of the Word, by which we 
judge not only for ourselves, but for others, and are thus 
enabled to strengthen the weak and confute the opponents 
of the Word. 100 Nor is it of any avail for Erasmus to say 
that the Church cannot have erred. The Church which does 
not err, replies Luther, is not the historic papal Church, 
but the secret body of God's people the few whom He has 
chosen, not the many. Moreover, the mere opinion of saints 
and martyrs on such a subject decides nothing. As the 
proverb has it, The souls of many esteemed to be saints and 
deemed to be in heaven are now in hell. 1 Saints like 
Augustine and Bernard forget and despair of themselves and 

" " Werke," 605. Sanctus spiritus non est sccpticus. 
* Ibid., xviii. 606-607. 
" JMd.> xviii. 653 f . x Ibid., xviii. 641 . 

254 Luther and the Reformation 

their own will and merits when they approach God in prayer 
and attempt anything in His service. Their only thought 
is their dependence solely on God's grace. 2 

To Erasmus the dogma of the impotence of the will is 
merely a curious and superfluous speculation. To Luther, 
on the contrary, it is of the very essence of the Christian 
faith. " Without it neither God, nor Christ, nor the Gospel, 
nor faith, nor anything is left us." 3 How can it be described 
as a superfluous speculation to seek to know whether the 
will can effect anything or not in regard to those things 
which belong to man's eternal salvation. Erasmus himself 
asserts both that without grace the will is inefficacious to 
do so, and that, nevertheless, it can do something. At the 
same time, he deems it superfluous to inquire whether it can 
or not. What is this but weakly to evade a real and 
fundamental problem in deference to human prudence ? 4 

To Luther this is the vital and essential thing. 5 If we 
are in ignorance on this point we can know nothing of 
Christianity and are worse than pagans. <f For if I am 
ignorant, what, how far, and how much I can do in relation 
to God, I shall remain equally ignorant and uncertain what, 
how far, and how much God can do and does in relation 
to me." We cannot worship or serve God unless we know in 
what relation we stand to Him and He stands to us. " Hence 
the necessity of being able to distinguish definitely between 
the power of God and our own, between His work and ours, 
if we wish to live piously." 6 By evading this fundamental 
problem Erasmus has written the most worthless book on the 
subject, apart from its literary elegance, he has ever come 
across. He is a mere rhetorician and is much inferior to the 
schoolmen in his superficial treatment of the subject. Luther 
will supply his deficiencies as a theologian and a meta- 
physician by teaching him what the subject really means 
and involves, in the hope of bringing him to repent of his 
foolish venture. 

Against " the figment " of free will he adduces the eternal 
and immutable will of God, by which He foresees, determines, 

4 " Werke," xviii. 644- * B>id.> xviii. 610. * Ibid., xviii. 611 f. 
6 Ibid., xviii. 614. Cardo nostrae disputationis. 
6 Ibid., xviii. 614. 

Luther against Erasmus 255 

and effects all that happens, and which excludes the assump- 
tion that He foresees anything contingently. From the 
immutable nature of God it follows irrefragably that what 
He has willed is immutable, and that all that we are, all 
that happens, happens in virtue of an immutable necessity, 
as far as God is concerned, though it may seem to us mutable 
and contingent. 7 In demonstration of this thesis he 
proceeds to refute the distinction between absolute and 
conditional necessity (necessitate consequently and necessi- 
tate consequentis), which he pronounces to be a mere play 
of words. Without the belief in this absolute necessity, 
faith and the worship and service of God would be impossible, 
since we could not trust God's promises or be certain of our 
salvation, and the Gospel would cease to afford us any real 
consolation amid the trials of this life. 8 

It is from this point of view that Erasmus's teaching is 
so obnoxious. It cuts at the root of faith and the Gospel. 
It is, therefore, irreligious and even blasphemous, though he 
admits that this is not his intention, and agrees with him 
in so far as his scepticism applies to the vain and sophistic 
argumentation of the scholastic theologians. But it is 
absolutely inapplicable to the teaching of the Scriptures, 
which is a very different thing from the theology of the 
schoolmen, and he objects to being placed in the same 
category with those hair-splitting sophists. He rebuts his 
comfortable advice that the truth of Scripture should not 
be indiscriminately preached to the people. If it is so 
harmful to preach on this subject to the people, why has he 
written a book on it ? Luther admits that some preachers 
indulge in noxious ranting on this and other subjects. But 
why should this prevent earnest and pious preachers from 
expounding Scripture doctrine to their hearers or inveighing 
against the tyranny of the ecclesiastical institutions, by 
which the conscience is enslaved, merely for fear of the 
abuse of liberty ? Luther refuses to suppress his convictions 

7 " Werke," xviii. 615. Eo quo sequitur irrefragabiliter omnia quse 
facimus, omnia quse fiunt, etsi nobis videntur mutabiliter et contingenter 
fieri, revera tamen fiunt necessario et immutabiliter, si Dei voluntatem 

* Ibid. y xviii. 618*619. 

256 Luther and the Reformation 

for such opportunist reasons. He scorns the egotistic advice 
to cease disturbing the world for the sake of peace on a 
question which is not a mere speculation, but concerns the 
salvation of the soul so vitally. For him it is a fundamental 
question of faith and conscience, which concerns the glory 
of Christ and God Himself, and on this serious, imperative, 
and eternal issue he is ready to defy the whole world and 
face death itself. 9 "By the grace of God I am not so 
foolish or mad as to have undertaken this cause for money, 
which I neither have nor wish, or for glory, which, even if 
I desired, I could not obtain in a world so hostile to me, 
or on account of the life of the body, of which I am not sure 
one moment. Nor is it for objects of this kind that I have 
maintained it with such courage, such constancy, which 
you are pleased to call perversity, through so many dangers, 
hatreds, snares, in brief, against the fury of men and demons. 
Think you that you alone have a breast which is troubled by 
these tumults ? We also are not made of rock or born with 
skins of marble. But since it cannot be otherwise, we, 
joyful in the grace of God, prefer to cause this violent 
collision on account of the Word of God, which is to be 
maintained with invincible mind, to being crushed with 
intolerable suffering by an eternal tumult under the wrath 
of God." 10 He will not, like Erasmus, sacrifice or destroy 
the Word and the cause of Christ for the sake of peace 
or the favour of Pope and princes. Christ admonishes us 
rather to despise the whole world in such a cause. He 
came not to give peace, but a sword. The function of the 
Word is to change and make a new world as often as it 
comes, and unless there were strife and tumult, we should 
conclude that the Word was not in the world. It will 
certainly not cease its function till the kingdom of the Pope 
with all his adherents is overthrown. This tumult is far 
more tolerable than the old and evil state of things, which 
Erasmus himself has often enough exposed. How much 
better to lose the world than to lose God. This tumult 
is unavoidable, inasmuch as the Pope and the priesthood 
will not grant a reasonable liberty from their tyrannical 

* Werke," xviii. 625. * Ibid., rviii. 625. 

Luther against Erasmus 257 

laws, but insist on taking captive and binding the conscience 
to their will and their human traditions. This is a conflict 
between God and Satan, which must be fought out to the 
bitter end. Has not Erasmus himself had to fight against 
the obscurantist enemies of sound learning ? How much 
more must we fight for the Gospel against its corrupters ! 
Not preach the whole Word of God to the people ? Did 
not Christ command to preach the Gospel to all the world ? 
And did not Paul say that the Word is not bound and that 
God is no respecter of persons ? 

He next deals with the awkward questions arising from 
the dogma of the impotent will, which Erasmus had raised 
in the last part of his introduction, and which showed the 
danger of teaching such a dogma to the people. Who, asks 
Erasmus, will strive to amend his life, if every one can only 
act in virtue of necessity ? " No one," answers Luther, 
" for no one can. Only the elect will amend themselves by 
God's spirit. The others will perish unamended." Who, 
asks Erasmus further, will believe that God loves him, if 
he is condemned merely in virtue of a divine decree ? "No 
one," answers Luther, " will or can believe except the elect, 
but will perish in their raging and blaspheming against God, 
as you do in your book." But, urges Erasmus, does not 
such a doctrine open a door to impiety ? " So be it," answers 
Luther. " This is part of the evil that is to be borne. But 
at the same time there is opened for the elect a door to 
righteousness, an entrance into heaven, a way to God." u 
Without such teaching the people would not humble them- 
selves before God, or despair of self and be led by fear to 
seek His grace and live, and recognise that salvation depends 
wholly on God's will, not on theirs. To all such objections 
his answer is, God wills it so, and it is not ours to inquire 
into the reason of His will, but simply to adore Him, 
believing that He is just and wise and does injury to none. 
It is a matter of faith and spiritual experience, not of 
understanding, and the difficulties involved serve only to 
stimulate faith. Formerly, as we have seen, the thought 
of predestination had filled him with despair. Now that 
he is sure of his salvation, it is an essential of faith, and the 
"Werke,"xviii. 633. 

258 Luther and the Reformation 

thought that salvation depends solely on God's immutable 
will fills him with an unfailing confidence. 

He next proceeds to criticise and controvert in detail 
Erasmus's conception of free will, as defined by him. 
Erasmus has faultily defined what for Luther does not 
exist. Free will, in the religious sense, man does not 
possess. Being absolutely dependent on God for salvation, 
as far as God does not operate in him, his works are neces- 
sarily evil and he can do nothing for his salvation. 12 His 
will is not in itself free. It is dominated either by God or 
Satan. It is like a beast of burden. If God is seated in 
the saddle, it wills and goes whither God wills. If the 
devil is in the saddle, it wills and goes whither the devil 
wills. Both are striving for the possession of it and it is 
powerless to choose between them. 13 Free will is the 
prerogative of God alone. 14 It is a misnomer when applied 
to man, and only tends to deceive the people, to the greatest 
danger of their salvation. Will power man has, and it may 
be permissible to speak of free will applied to ordinary 
things, though even in this case God is the ultimate disposer 
of all. 15 But in relation to God in those things which 
concern his salvation he is not free, but the slave of the will 
either of God or Satan. Erasmus, while assuming a certain 
measure of freedom in the will, says that it is inefficacious 
to do the good without grace, and that it even became 
through the fall the slave of sin. He thus, retorts Luther, 
gives away his whole case. For, if the will cannot do the 
good without grace, it is not free, but the slave of evil, and 
cannot turn of itself or apply itself to what pertains to 
salvation. 18 If Erasmus had not in their eyes the merit 
of writing against Luther, the scholastic theologians them- 
selves would condemn such stuff and send him to the stake. 17 
There can be no attempt to do the good where there is no 
power to will the good and man is the slave of sin. No 
middle course is here possible, as Erasmus would have 
us believe. If God is present in us, the devil is absent and 
one cannot but will the good. If God is absent, the devil 

11 " Werke," xviii. 634. " Ibid., xviii. 662 f. 

" Ibid., xviii. 635. " Ibid., xviii. 636, 664-665. 

14 Ibid., xviii. 636, 662. * 7 Ibid., xviii. 665-666. 

Luther against Erasmus 259 

is present and one cannot but do the evil. 18 Free will is 
nothing but an empty name (inane vocabulum), since if the 
will has lost its liberty by sin, it is a mere delusion of words 
to speak of its liberty. 19 It is beside the point to appeal 
to the law as a proof of free will. God has given the law 
in order to bring home to us the moral impotence of human 
nature. Nor does it avail to adduce the testimony of reason 
and carnal wisdom, which only tend to nurture human pride 
and mislead and blind us to the truth of Scripture. The 
Scriptural passages by which Erasmus attempts to sub- 
stantiate his case he interprets wrongly. Rightly inter- 
preted they prove, not what man can, but what he ought to 
do. 20 The radical weakness of his exegesis consists in the 
fact that he fails to distinguish between the Law and the 
Gospel. The Law commands and exacts. The Gospel 
exacts nothing, but offers us the grace of God. 21 In thus 
wrongly interpreting the Scriptures on behalf of a certain 
measure of freedom in the will, Erasmus really lands him- 
self in the same position as Pelagius, who believed in the 
full freedom of the will, and from whom he nevertheless 
dissents. 22 That the testimony of Scripture is against him 
on this question he asserts in the most uncompromising 
fashion. " Not only the Law, but the whole Scripture is 
opposed to free will." w 

He maintains this contention even in the face of passages 
like Ezekiel xviii. 23, " The Lord willeth not the death 
of the sinner, but that he should turn and live/' which 
Erasmus adduces in evidence of the exercise of free will. 
How can it be said that God willeth not the death of the 
sinner, if it is true, as the opponents of free will insist, that 
the sinner can do nothing but as God wills and works in 
him, and that, therefore, the fate of those who are lost is 
due to Him ? God, indeed, returns Luther, wills all to be 
saved, to experience His grace. Scripture is replete with 
this teaching, and he duly emphasises this fact, whilst 

18 "Werke," xviii. 669-670. 20 Ibid., xviii. 671 f. 

19 Ibid.* xviii. 670-671. 31 Ibid., xviii. 682. 
"Ibid., xviii. 675; */ 683. 

9 * Ibid., xviii. 684. Non solum omnia verba legis contra liberum 
arbitrium, sed universam Scripturam contra illud pugnaie. 

260 Luther and the Reformation 

sticking to his determinist doctrine that it is only as He 
wills and works in us that we are saved. But if God does 
all and man nothing, and if He wills all to experience His 
grace, how is it that some experience His grace and others 
do not ? This, replies Luther, is a mystery. The solution 
of this mystery He has reserved to Himself. He seems so 
far to agree with Erasmus that the question of free will is 
a baffling one, though he does not accept his conclusion that 
it is, therefore, superfluous for us to trouble ourselves or 
others with it. It is at all events not superfluous as far as 
it concerns us to know whether or not we can do anything 
to attain salvation. In spite of this ultimate impasse, 
he will hold to his conviction on the subject and will believe 
and adore where he cannot understand. He takes refuge 
in the distinction between the revealed and the secret will 
of God, between the Word of God and God Himself. 24 God in 
His revealed Word wills and seeks all to be saved. But He 
has not revealed His whole will in the Word. Behind the 
Word is the realm of the divine majesty and nature, the 
secret mind of God which is above our knowledge or compre- 
hension, and of which it is not our business to dispute. 
It is enough to quote the words of Paul, " Nay but, O man, 
who art thou that repliest against God ? " ** (Rom. ix. 20). 

In reply to Erasmus's contention that if man acts in 
virtue of necessity, merit and reward are excluded, and 
it is therefore useless for Scripture to speak of these, Luther 
appeals from the Old Testament the Law and its threats 
to the New, which proclaims the grace of God for the remis- 
sion of sin, freely bestowed through Christ. The Gospel 
excludes all thought of merit. Man merits only damnation, 
and only as he is justified through God's mercy is he capable 
of good works and actually exercises them in bearing the 
Cross and the tribulations of life. " This is the sum and 
substance of the New Testament, yea, even of the Old 
Testament/' of which Erasmus with his moralism knows 
nothing. He is thus incapable of understanding the new 
birth, the regeneration, the renewal of corrupt human 

**"Werke," xviii. 68$. Distinctio inter Deum praedicatum et 
absconditum, hoc est, inter verbum Dei et Deum ipsum. 
5 Ibid., xviii. 686, 

Luther against Erasmus 261 

nature by the Spirit and mercy of God. His assertion of 
merit and reward, based on free will, agrees with this Gospel 
as little as darkness with light. The children of God do 
the good gratuitously and not for reward, in obedience to 
the will of God and for the glory of God. They are prepared 
to do so even if there were no heaven and no hell. 26 Our 
works are not ours, but God's, from whom we receive all 
that we do. 

He next proceeds to vindicate his teaching on the unfree 
will from the objections urged by Erasmus. 27 He dis- 
claims the exegesis of certain Scripture passages which 
Erasmus unjustifiably attributes to him. He maintains, 
in reference to the hardening of Pharaoh's heart, that the 
words of the text are to be taken literally and not merely 
tropologically, as Erasmus asserts. Thus Paul interprets 
them in the ninth chapter of Romans, and the testimony of 
Origen and Jerome to the contrary proves nothing, since 
among all ancient ecclesiastical writers none treated the 
Scriptures more ineptly and absurdly than those two 
Fathers. 28 God did not merely furnish the opportunity 
for the hardening of Pharaoh's heart. He actually did so 
for the purpose of showing His power through human 
wickedness. There is no use of trying to evade this evident 
fact by saying that God, being not only just, but good, 
could not have acted thus. Nor to adduce the revulsion of 
reason from such an interpretation. "As applied to the 
works and words of God, human reason is blind, deaf, 
impious, and sacrilegious in presuming thus to judge in 
divine things." 29 From the standpoint of reason it would 
be necessary to reject every article of the Creed as an 
absurdity. These things are above reason and can only 
be grasped by faith, and through the enlightenment of the 
Spirit which enables us to believe that God is good, even 
if He were to destroy the whole world. 30 God, he proceeds 
to explain, is omnipotent will, whilst man, on the other 
hand, is absolutely impotent to do His will and can only, 
in virtue of original sin, which has corrupted his nature, 

2 " " Werke," xviii. 696, *' Ibid., xviii. 707. 

a7 Ibid., xviii. 699 f. co Ibid., xviii. 708. 

t Ibid., xvui. 703. 

262 Luther and the Reformation 

will what is opposed to God. But he is not thereby removed 
from the activity of God's omnipotent will, which embraces 
all created things. In virtue of this omnipotence, God 
acts in every creature, even in Satan and the wicked. He 
does so as He finds them, though, as perfectly good, He is 
not, in so acting, the author of evil. 31 The evil is in the 
instrument, not the user of it, and is not to be ascribed to 
Him, who is absolute good, but to corrupt human nature, 
which He uses for His glory and our salvation. 

Thus God, acting on Pharaoh's evil nature, which is subject 
to His omnipotent will and which leads him to persist in 
his wickedness, is truly said to harden his heart, to really 
will that he shall perish. If you ask why God did not 
change his heart, or why He did not intervene to prevent 
the fall of Adam, Luther here also replies that this is an 
inscrutable mystery into which we have no right to inquire, 
though the elect will abide in their assurance that what 
God wills is right. Our complaints cannot change God's 
immutable purpose. No rule or limit can be set to His 
immutable will. Otherwise it would not be divine. We 
cannot say of it that it ought to will so and so and, therefore, 
what it wills is right, but, on the contrary, because it wills, 
it must be right. To distinguish between foreknowing, as 
the scholastic theologians and Erasmus do, and fore-ordaining, 
in order to get over the difficulty of ascribing to God's will 
what seems evil, is a mere quibble. Divine foreknowledge 
involves divine fore-ordination. Nor have we any right 
to complain in reference to Paul's reasoning in the ninth 
chapter of Romans that if God's will, in virtue of His 
omnipotence, is irresistible, we are punished for acting 
as He wills. God has the absolute right to do whatever 
He wills. He owes us nothing ; has received nothing from 
us ; has promised us nothing except as it pleases Him. 32 
The reasoning of Paul puts this beyond question. 

He admits that this is a hard doctrine and offensive to 
natural reason and common sense. He himself, he tells us, 
had formerly experienced the offence of it and had been 

81 u Werke," xviii. 709. Quia ipse bonus male facere non potest. 
sa Ibid-., xviii. 717. 

Luther against Erasmus 263 

driven to the deepest abyss of despair in wrestling with 
the specious scholastic reasonings on the subject. Yea, 
he had wished that he had never been born until he dis- 
covered how salutary was this desperation in leading him 
to trust the whole thing to God and how neax it is to God's 
grace, 33 Natural reason itself would be compelled to come 
to this conclusion, even if there were no Scripture to reveal 
it. " For all men discover this doctrine written in their 
hearts and acknov/ledge and approve it (albeit unwillingly) 
when it is thus expounded to them. Firstly, that God is 
omnipotent not only potentially, but actually. Otherwise 
He would be an absurd God. Secondly, that He knows 
and foreknows all things, nor can He err or be deceived. 
These two principles being conceded by the heart and 
understanding of all, they are compelled to admit the 
inevitable conclusion that nothing happens by our will, 
but by necessity, and that we do nothing by right of free 
will, but as God foreknows and brings to pass by "His 
infallible and immutable decree and power." 34 

After dealing at length with the Scripture passages against 
free will, which Erasmus had attempted to invalidate, he 
confronts him in the concluding portion of the work with 
Paul and John, and elaborates against his moralism his 
doctrine of justification by faith alone. Paul, he holds, is a 
convinced opponent of free will. For him free will and grace 
are absolute antitheses. All men are by nature ignorant of 
God, enemies of God, bent on evil and helpless to do the 
good. From the religious point of view reason is blind and 
the will impotent. Without the grace of God Satan rules in 
man, even in his good works. Paul's words admit of no 
exception or modification. They apply to the best as well 
as the worst of mankind. " By the works of the law shall 
no flesh be justified in His sight" (Rom. iii. 20). These 
words do not refer only to the ceremonial law, as Erasmus, 
following Jerome, contends. This is to misunderstand Paul 
and falsify the Gospel. They include the whole Law, by 
which comes the knowledge of sin. Here is the crushing 
answer to the question, What is the use of the Law with its 
precepts and threats, if free will is a delusion ? To give the 

sa Werke," xviii. 719. 8 * Ibid., xviii. 719. 

264 Luther and the Reformation 

knowledge of sin, says Paul, not to prove the possession of 
free will. 35 The Law makes us conscious of the disease of 
our nature and brings us to despair of ourselves. It does 
not help us or heal the disease. Here it is that the Gospel 
comes in, proclaiming Christ as the deliverer from this 
disease by making us partakers of the divine righteousness, 
freely bestowed through faith and justifying us without the 
works of the Law. For the righteousness that avails before 
God, Christ alone suffices. The will of man may to some 
extent promote the righteousness demanded by the civil 
or moral law. It cannot suffice for the divine righteous- 
ness. 86 To believers God gives His righteousness ; from 
unbelievers He withholds it. Paul and Luther, as his 
follower, conceive of righteousness from the divine, not 
from the human standpoint. This righteousness is attain- 
able only through faith, without which no righteousness 
can avail in the sight of God. Any other is only sin in His 
sight. Paul's alternative is, " Righteousness, if faith is 
present ; sin, if faith is not present." " As you believe, so 
you have." 37 " Justified freely by His grace " excludes 
free will and merit and all the scholastic talk of meritum 
condignum and meritum congruum in order to reconcile grace 
and merit is a mere play of words. By ignoring the plain 
teaching of Paul on grace and works, the Church and its 
theologians have radically erred, and the testimony of the 
Fathers and doctors of so many centuries is utterly worthless 
as against the Apostle's explicit teaching. 38 The whole of 
Paul's reasoning is based on the conviction that outside 
faith in Christ there is nothing but sin and damnation, and 
it is confirmed by that of the fourth Gospel. And what need 
of Christ if our salvation is not solely due to Him and not to 
us ? These champions of free will have transformed Christ 
the Saviour into the terrible Judge who must be propitiated 
by the intercession of the Virgin and the saints, by a whole 
system of penitential works, rules, vows, etc., in order that 
He may bestow His grace on us, which He has already 
obtained for us by the shedding of His blood. 39 

* "Werke," xviii. 766. 

at Ibid.) xviii. 767-768. Ad justitiam Dei tamen non promovetur. 

* 7 Ibid., xviii. 769. as Jbid^ xviii. 771. a Ibid^ xviii. 778. 

Luther against Erasmus 265 

In conclusion, he claims to have unanswerably proved his 
case, and ends on a note of personal reminiscence which 
clearly shows that this grim doctnne has its root, not so 
much in his logic as in his religious experience. Even if 
free will were possible and his salvation depended on himself, 
he would rather not have it so, because he could have no 
assurance thereby of acceptance with God. Not only would 
the power of the demons, the trials and dangers of this life 
be too much for him. Even if there were no demons, dangers, 
adversities to face, he would be plunged into a sea of un- 
certainty and vain strivings. The old question which had 
haunted him in the monastery at Erfurt, How can I find a 
gracious God ? would start up and rob him of peace of 
conscience, and if he tried and worked to all eternity he 
could never be sure of the answer by his own efforts. " No 
matter how perfect the work, the old doubt would remain 
whether it was sufficient to satisfy God and whether God 
would not require something more, as the experience of all 
who strive for salvation by works proves, and as I myself 
learned through so many years of bitter suffering. But now 
that God has removed my salvation beyond the power of 
my will and has charged His will with it and has promised 
to save me not by my works and ways, but by His grace 
and mercy, I am serene and certain that He is faithful 
and will not lie, and that no demons, no adversities can 
prevail against His power and might and can snatch me 
away from Him. . . . Thus are we certain and secure that 
we are acceptable to God, not by the merit of our works, 
but by the goodness of His mercy, promised to us, and that 
even if we do little or evilly, He does not impute it to us, but 
paternally pardons and amends. 1 ' 40 

In this assured mood he thanks Erasmus that he has 
not troubled him with such questions as the Papacy, purga- 
tory, indulgences, and such trifles, with which his opponents 
have hitherto in vain pursued him ; but, alone among them 
all, has seen where the whole thing hinges and has seized 
him by the throat. If the others had done so there might 
now have been less sedition and division and more peace 

*"Werke,"xviii. 783. 

266 Luther and the Reformation 

and concord. Now that he has vindicated his cause against 
even an Erasmus, whose learning and genius he highly 
extols, he hopes that he will return to his literary studies 
and give up disputing on a subject for which God has not 
endowed him. 41 

In the " De Servo Arbitrio " Luther appears at his 
best as a controversialist. It is moderate and measured 
in style and free from the reckless abuse of too much of 
his controversial writing. He treats Erasmus courteously, 
though he at times asperses his lack of conviction and 
what he considers his misrepresentation of the Gospel. 
It is a sustained piece of reasoning of a high order. In 
fertility of thought and dialectic power he is greatly superior 
to his opponent. Erasmus is a scholar and a critic, rather 
than a thinker. Luther is a thinker, rather than a scholar 
and a critic. Erasmus has the inquiring, Luther the dog- 
matic, temperament. To the one doubt is a condition of 
the truth, to the other it is anathema. A teacher, says 
Luther, must assert definitely what he believes and not 
reason in a vacillating fashion. 42 Either we have free will, 
or we have it not, is the alternative he constantly holds 
before his opponent. Whilst Erasmus examines and weighs 
the evidence and concludes accordingly, with an eye to both 
sides and a distinct disinclination to commit himself too 
definitely one way or the other, Luther thinks the matter 
out with the most persistent grasp and resource, and will not 
cease his grasp till he has got to definite results. He is far 
more in earnest as well as more penetrative in thought and 
logic than his opponent, and he is by far the more powerful 
reasoner. With the eye of the experienced dialectician he 
picks out the weak points of his opponent's arguments. He 
constantly, for instance, points out the contradiction between 
his admission of the enslavement of the will by sin, in conse- 
quence of the fall, and the assumption of its capacity to 
do the good. He shows again and again that even the 
restricted freedom that he ascribes to it is practically equi- 
valent to complete freedom. What Erasmus proves from 
certain passages of Scripture is not a restricted but a full 

" Werke," xviii. 786. Ibid., xviii. 720. 

Luther against Erasmus 267 

freedom. His reproach of the lack of logical consistency 
is certainly not undeserved at times. Equally telling the 
reproach of his principle of suppressing or evading the truth 
for the sake of expediency. Truth is for Luther too great 
a thing for trifling or diplomacy of this kind. 

Erasmus treats free will as a speculative question. For 
Luther it is primarily a soteriological question one with 
which his personal salvation is vitally bound up. Its religious 
aspect is ever present to his mind and he realises this aspect 
far more vividly than his opponent. His exalted idea of the 
divine righteousness seems to him to involve the utter 
incapacity of man to attain to anything approaching it 
or anything worthy of the name of righteousness ideally 
considered, as embodied in God. He and Erasmus are on 
a different plane in this respect, though both of them felt 
a revulsion from the work-righteousness of the mediaeval 
Church, which tended to foster a superficial religiosity and 
was based on a low religious ideal, a wrong religious principle 
so much reward for so much formal merit and a bargain- 
ing with God for salvation on this principle. But Luther 
took the ideal of the divine righteousness with desperate 
seriousness, and was not disposed, like Erasmus, to accom- 
modate himself to Church practice or teaching in this vital 
matter. Real fellowship with a perfectly righteous God, 
God alone can effect, is for Luther a fundamental axiom. 
Where Erasmus is more matter of fact, more rational, 
Luther is mystic, emotional. His soul is more attuned 
to the ideal spiritual world which transcends sense and 
reason. He has an overmastering sense of God and His 
perfect righteousness, and a corresponding sense of man's 
littleness, weakness, unrighteousness in relation to God. 
For him the thought of God as the absolute good dominates 
this relation. This thought is not a mere abstraction of 
reason. It is the ever-present, haunting reality it was to 
the Hebrew prophet at his best, and it conditions his attitude 
on the question at issue. It is the religious, not the intel- 
lectual or moral aspect of the question that appeals to him. 
The old problem, started in the Erfurt monastery, How, 
on what conditions can I find a gracious God and attain 
the divine life? is the decisive thing. In view of what 

268 Luther and the Reformation 

God is and what man cannot be the perfect good the 
conclusion is for him inevitable. God alone can make 
me worthy of the divine fellowship, and only as God works 
in me can I be assured of this fellowship. Every human 
effort must necessarily fall short of the perfect good. There 
is none good but God. Therefore only as God works in me 
can I will the good in the absolute sense. The good in the 
relative sense, even if it were possible, which he refuses to 
admit, is of no avail in the realm of the highest, the absolute 
good. So conceived, there can be no feasible relation 
between him and God, except as God Himself creates it. 
This is the strong side of Luther's position as against Erasmus 
with his matter-of-fact notion of a certain efficacy in the 
will, especially as he combines this notion with the assump- 
tion of a total inefficacy in virtue of original sin. Logically 
as well as religiously Erasmus's definition and his argu- 
mentation were, from Luther's standpoint, inadequate, wrong, 

On the other hand, Luther's attempt to substantiate his 
determinism to the extent not only of denying even a 
relative good to man's action, but of asserting that God, 
not the human will, is responsible for the evil as well as 
the good man does, is far from convincing. Here he seems 
to be arguing not from a necessary axiom, but from certain 
prepossessions begotten of his personal religious experience, 
his tendency to interpret all Scripture solely in the light 
of this experience, rather than of its own testimony, the 
mediaeval belief in demoniac agency, the influence of schol- 
astic dogma, the theological assumption of the original 
perfection of created man, the fall of Adam, and the effects 
of original sin, which has influenced theology, especially 
since Augustine's time. To represent man as the passive 
agent of the divine decree is, to say the least, rather com- 
promising for the divine righteousness. It does not suffi- 
ciently answer objections on this score to protest that God 
is nevertheless not the author of the evil in human action, 
or to adduce the secret as distinct from the revealed will 
of God, The secret will of God only puts the difficulty a 
step further back. It does not remove it, since all the 
same man acts by God's foreknowledge and decree. Is it 

Luther against Erasmus 269 

not far more reassuring to base the conviction of acceptance 
with God, salvation on the divine love rather than on the 
assumption of a mysterious divine decree, on which salvation 
or damnation ultimately depends ? Nor does this determin- 
ism accord with human personality. It practically reduces 
man to the level of a machine in the hands of an inexorable 
will outside himself. It destroys his personality in its most 
essential point the expression of responsible moral action 
even if Luther's object in thus destroying it is to recreate it 
in a new relation to God. Thus to make man the object and 
even the victim of a fore-ordaining omnipotent will is, in any 
case, to make him a mere automaton, bereft of the power 
of free self-development, neutralising his innate faculties of 
reason and conscience. The possibility of the freedom of 
the will, despite the handicap of heredity, is a cardinal 
condition of the training of human character, of the develop- 
ment of man's moral and spiritual nature. It is an essential 
of the divine method of achieving the moral and spiritual 
progress of the individual and the race. Without it the 
race would remain static. Luther has no adequate concep- 
tion of this side of the question. It is vain to look in his 
purely theological reasonings for a treatment of the problem 
from the scientific psychological point of view, as the modern 
mind envisages it. His doctrine has, moreover, a question- 
able pantheistic bearing in the objectionable sense of the 
word. Luther rightly emphasises the immanence, the all- 
working of God in the universe. But he leaves very little 
room for human responsibility in transforming this imman- 
ence into the realisation of an absolute decree of the divine 
omnipotence, though his object is not really to destroy 
human responsibility and worth, but to bring about a fuller 
realisation of the divine life in man. 

In doing so he disclaims all dependence on the scholastic 
theology and follows Erasmus in professing to go by the 
testimony of Scripture. But equally with Erasmus he works 
with ideas borrowed from this theology. His whole reason- 
ing on the subject is vitiated by the Scotist idea of God as 
absolute, unlimited will. It is, as he admits, a sort of theo- 
logical replica of the Greek Fate, though, of course, it excludes 
the element of chance. 

270 Luther and the Reformation 

Nor does it invalidate the legitimate objections of reason 
and conscience to denounce reason as a blind and impious 
rebel and discant on man's natural ignorance of God and 
the good. Here again his mind still works too much under 
the influence of the scholastic (Occamist) antithesis between 
reason and faith, science and religion. He forgets that 
reason, though it may be abused, and, so abused, is a terrible 
agent of error and evil, is nevertheless an essential equally 
of divinity and humanity, and that it has its inherent rights 
and responsibilities. An irrational faith cannot after all 
be a substitute for reason, and reason in a question of this 
kind cannot be silenced by the obscurantist objurgation, 
when awkward problems are suggested for solution, to which 
he is far too prone. His book is, in fact, a tour de force 
of reasoning of a very remarkable order, and he himself 
could find a place for reason with no little effect when 
defending his cause at Worms and in other utterances, 
though his general principle came to be that reason is the 
enemy of God. " In divine things reason has no authority. 
In these things only divine authority is valid/' ** Its 
temerity is to be repressed. 44 By the neglect of reason he, 
too, could be inconsistent and contradictory. His pessi- 
mistic conception of it and human nature in general is 
undoubtedly influenced by the mediaeval notion of the world 
as the plaything of the devil, who is ever seeking to establish 
his rule over it in his ceaseless conflict with God. This 
conflict of good and evil may be true enough, though not in 
his naive acceptance of the demoniac world in which the 
superstitious spirit of his time saw the devil, in every 
conceivable shape and form, in the ordinary happenings 
around it. If the power of evil is indeed a terrible reality 
in this misgoverned world of ours, we need not seek farther 
for an explanation of it than in the misuse of human reason 
and will, due to the ignorance, selfishness, self-will, and the 
influence of heredity with which not God but man persists 
in misgoverning himself and it. Even Luther does not as 
a thinker always succeed in avoiding some of the pitfalls 
which beset so passionate a seeker of truth and righteousness. 

< 3 ' Wrrke, " xvin. 69-!. " Ibid., xvih. 695. 

Luther against Erasmus 271 

He does not, for instance, use it aright in identifying 
Erasmus's position with that of Pelagius on this question. 
Like Erasmus he can at times press his texts to yield his 
conclusions, and does not always fairly face the arguments of 
his opponent. Is it, for instance, a reasonable argument 
to contend that in the passages of Scripture which seem 
to teach free will God only makes use of such language in 
order the better to make us realise our impotence, or to 
spite the blindness and pride of an accursed reason ? Would 
it not be much more forcible, in view of the evident meaning 
of the text, to believe that He meant what He said, even if 
it makes Him appeal to the responsible human will ? Again, 
if the reason for rejecting the free will exegesis of a text is 
that to grant it would be to acknowledge that Pelagius 
was right, is this a sufficient proof that the anti-Pelagian 
one must be right ? The question for the scientific exegete 
is not whether Pelagius was right or wrong, but what the 
writer actually meant. 

Nevertheless, apart from such criticisms, the " De Servo 
Arbitrio " is a great book great as a piece of sustained 
reasoning, great as the offspring of a deeply religious spirit, 
optimistic, in spite of its pessimism, in emphasising the love 
and grace of God even in the face of this terrible, omnipotent, 
and inscrutable divine decree, inciting to the highest moral 
effort in reliance solely on God, wonderfully inspiring if 
also at times greatly depressing. There is something grand, 
heroic, in its attempt to see behind the universe the great 
secret, the mystery of the divine will which is gradually 
being unfolded in its history, though the process may appear 
to us in a different light from that which fell upon the eyes 
of Luther. Likewise of great historic, practical significance. 
Luther takes the problem out of the academic atmosphere 
of the schools. It is, as he rightly emphasises, not a merely 
speculative one for the doctors to exercise their ingenuity 
on. It lies at the root of morality and religion. Moreover, 
his book did an immense service to the Reformation by con- 
firming and strengthening it in the eyes of its adherents 
and well-wishers. Its message, delivered in such assured 
tones, that salvation depends not on the claims or preten- 
sions of Pope or Church, but on the divine decree and the 

272 Luther and the Reformation 

operation of God's grace in the individual soul was a sledge- 
hammer blow to the papal and priestly form of Christianity. 
Hence the rather generous space we have allotted to the 
controversy. 45 

Erasmus felt the weight of the blow and did not relish 
the book or its author. It exasperated him, and in spite 
of Luther's comparative moderation towards him personally 
he saw in its sledge-hammer arguments a violent personal 
attack. His temper and his conservatism got the 
better of his judgment, and his attitude was henceforth 
irreconcilably hostile. God preserve me from Luther and 
all his works, is the tone of the letter he wrote him on the 
nth April I526, 4 * as well as of the counterblast which he 
published under the title of " Hyperaspistes." 47 Pique, 
as well as incompatibility of temper and tendency, doubtless 
contributed to this result. Erasmus had been displaced by 
a bigger personality as the leader of an international move- 
ment Theology had taken the place of humanism in the 
interest even of a large section of the cultured class, whose 
idol and leader he had hitherto been. It was developing 
a driving force which humanism lacked. The fact 
contributed to prejudice him against the Reformation, in 
which he could now only see darkness and destruction. 
Formerly it had appeared to him as " a tragedy " of momen- 
tous import. Now it was a comedy which (with a thrust 
at Luther's marriage) ended in a wedding ! 

To Luther, on the other hand, Erasmus is now " a viper," 

48 The " De Arbitrio " is edited by Freitag with introduction and 
notes for the Weimar edition of Luther's works. Translations in German, 
in addition to that of Justus Jonas (1526), in Walch, xviii., by 0. Scheel 
in Luther's " Werke," edited by Buchwald (1905), and Gogarten (1924). 
English translations by Cole (1823) and by Vaughan (1823). Mono- 
graphs by Taube, " Luther's Lehre uber die Freiheit " (1901) ; Katten- 
busch f " Luther's Lehre vom unfreien Willen und von der Predestina- 
tion " (1875); "Deus Absconditus bei Luther" (1920); Peisher, 
" Zum Problem von Luther's De Servo Arbitrio," " TheoL Stud. und. 
Krit." (1926), 212 f. ; Walter, " Das Wesen der Freiheit nach Erasmus 
und Luther " (1906); Murray, " Erasmus and Luther " (1920), gives 
a very summary account of the free-will controversy; P. Smith, 
" Erasmus," 336 f. 

Enders, v. 335-336. * 7 " Opera," ix. 

Luther against Erasmus 273 

an open and reprobate enemy of the truth. 48 He doggedly 
held to his belief in the enslaved will, though, unlike Calvin, 
he subsequently refrained from placing predestination, at 
least in its more speculative form, in the forefront of his 
teaching on this subject. 49 Fully ten years later there 
were, he said, only two of his works that he would perhaps 
not wish to consign to the waste basket the " De Libero 
Arbitrio " and his " Catechism " 50 in reference to the 
proposed collected edition of his works. The breach between 
them was a sore trial to Melanchthon, who erelong dropped 
Luther's determinist doctrine and would fain have healed 
the breach between them in the interest of learning and the 
Reformation. It is, however, debatable, in view of his 
opportunist tendency, his ingrained fear of " tumult," 
whether it would have been of much practical service on 
critical occasions to have Erasmus as a friend rather than an 

** Enders, v. 329. To Spalatin, 27th March 1526. 
49 See Seeberg, " Dogmengeschichte," iv. 153-155. 
60 Enders, XK 247. Luther to Capito, 9th July 1537. 




WITH the overthrow of the peasants, in which Romanist 
and Lutheran princes had combined, the antagonism between 
the two religious parties reappeared. On the part of the 
Romanists, in fact, the work of repression was at the same 
time a crusade against Lutheranism, to which they ascribed 
the Rising. Luther might protest, in refutation of this 
assumption, that Electoral Saxony had remained almost 
free from the revolutionary contagion and that it was just 
in the ecclesiastical principalities that the people had been 
driven to desperation by the oppression and misrule of 
their ecclesiastical overlords. 1 He would have served his 
own cause better had he borne this fact in mind when 
inciting the princes indiscriminately to slaughter the insur- 
gents. In acting on this wild manifesto in behalf of 
established authority, the Romanists were not slow to take 
advantage of the opportunity to turn their vengeance against 
his adherents even if they had taken no active part in the 
revolution. Their victims included, for instance, not a few 
of the evangelical preachers, and thus in inditing his sum- 
mons to kill without mercy he was unwittingly giving scope 
to the persecution of many of his own followers. Whilst 
alienating the sympathy of the people by his violence, he 
had failed to gain the goodwill of his antagonists among the 
princes. The overthrow of the peasants had shattered the 
hope alike of a national emancipation from Rome and the 
establishment of a new social order which the evangelical 

* " Werke," 63, 23 (Eriangen ed.) ; Hausrath, " Luther," ii. 92-93. 


The First Diet of Spires 275 

movement in its earlier stage bade fair to realise. Luther 
was denounced by his old antagonist Emser as alike the 
instigator and betrayer of the peasants, 2 and before the 
butchery of the insurgents was completed, the Romanist 
princes of the north, following the example set by those of 
the south at Ratisbon in the previous year (1524), were 
taking steps to vindicate the old faith as well as the old 
social order. To this end, Duke George of Saxony, the 
Electors of Brandenburg and Maintz, and the Dukes of 
Brunswick-Wolfenbiittel met at Dessau in July 1525 to 
concoct a league against the Lutherans. Six months later 
they deputed Duke Henry of Brunswick to Spain to negotiate 
the active assistance of the Emperor. 3 

The international situation seemed favourable to the 
speedy realisation of their project. Charles had not only 
conquered and captured his rival, Francis L, at Pavia. 
He had extorted from him, in the Treaty of Madrid, the 
recognition of his supremacy in Italy and his co-operation 
in the suppression of the Lutheran heresy in Germany 
(January 1526).* The time had come for putting in force 
the Edict of Worms, as well as convening the long-talked-of 
Council for the reformation of ecclesiastical abuses. 

The outlook seemed gloomy enough for the cause of 
Luther, which had besides, by the death of the Elector 
Frederick in the previous May, lost its most powerful 
protector, who had so effectively promoted it by his skilful 
diplomacy and his active goodwill, and who died a professed 
evangelical Christian. Fortunately at this critical juncture 
it found in his brother and successor, the Elector John, 
not merely a prudent patron, but a confirmed and steadfast 
champion. Still more fortunately, it had gained a formidable 
recruit in the Landgrave Philip of Hesse, whom Melanchthon 
had won over in the previous year. The Landgrave was a 
man of forceful personality and a resourceful politician as 
well as an ardent convert, and though his personal morality 

* See Hausrath, ii. 64-65. 

Gess, " Akten und Briefe," ii. 352-353; Ranke, "Deutsche 
Geschichte," ii. 160161, 173-174, 180-181, 195-196 (19 2 S ed-) J 
Hausrath, " Luther,'* ii. 91 ; Kolde, " Luther," ii. 221-222. 

4 Ranke, ii. 245, 272 (1925 ed.). 

276 Luther and the Reformation 

did not tally too well with his new faith, the Lutheran 
cause gained in him a gifted adherent whose political ability 
materially contributed to save it from being overwhelmed 
by the threatened reaction. Under his forceful auspices 
a counter-league eventually took shape as the result of a 
series of conferences at Torgau, Gotha, and Magdeburg, 
which included, besides the Elector and the Landgrave, the 
Dukes of Liineburg, Grubenhagen, and Mecklenburg, the 
Prince of Anhalt, Count Albrecht of Mansfeld, and the city 
of Magdeburg (i2th June I526), 5 Luther himself was 
dubious about this militant policy, which was a distinct 
departure from his principle of the inadmissibility of rebellion 
against constituted authority and the use of force in the 
service of the Gospel, 8 He believed in the co-operation 
of the secular authority in furtherance of the evangelical 
cause, and in his " Ennahnung " had assigned to it, not to 
the people, the initiation of reforms. He had, in fact, at 
the instigation of Christian of Denmark and in the hope of 
securing the active co-operation of the English king, written 
a humble apology to Henry VIIL for the violent tone of 
his book against him. 7 But he was not yet prepared to 
sanction the right of rebellion of the princes of the empire 
against their overlord the Emperor even for the sake of 
the Gospel. 

The influence of this combination made itself felt in the 
Diet which met a fortnight later (25th June) at Spires to 
consider once more the religious question. In the absence 
of most of the leaders of the anti-Lutheran League Duke 
George, the Elector Joachim, the Dukes of Bavaria and 
Brunswick-Wolfenbiittd the Lutheran princes and the 
moderate Catholics obtained the upper hand. They not only 
insisted on the effective reform of ecclesiastical abuses 8 
the gravamina which had figured so conspicuously in the 
deliberations of previous Diets they proposed a religious 

Ranke, ii. 247-248, 274-277 (1925 ed.). 

* See his tract, " Ob Kriegsleute auch in seligem Stande scin 
kdnnen," " Werke," xix. 636 f. (1526). 

7 Enders, v. 231-233, ist Sept. 1525. See also " Werke," xxiii. 17 f., 
for his retort to Henry's contemptuous reply (1527). 

See the list in Walch, xvi. 250 f. 

The First Diet of Spires 277 

compromise between the two parties, which went a long way 
towards the Lutheran standpoint. A committee of the 
princes declared in favour of the marriage of the clergy, 
of communion in both kinds, of a reduction in the number of 
fast and festival days and of the mendicant Orders, of the 
abolition of private Masses, of the use of the German as well 
as the Latin language in the baptismal and communion 
services, and of the principle, in the matter of preaching, 
of the interpretation of Scripture by Scripture (Scriptura 
Scriptures interpres). " Never before in any Diet," wrote 
Spalatin, " was there such free and independent and out- 
spoken criticism of the Pope, the bishops, the clergy, as in 
this one/' 9 On the submission of these proposals to a 
committee of all the Estates, however, the Emperor's 
commissioners, chief of whom was the Archduke Ferdinand, 
intervened with an instruction from the Emperor, of date 
23rd March 1526, which vetoed any innovation of the tradi- 
tional ecclesiastical usages, and demanded anew the execution 
of the Edict of Worms. 10 In this deadlock the representatives 
of the cities, who emphasised the impossibility of carrying 
out the Edict, 11 drew attention to the fact that the inter- 
national situation had undergone a complete transformation 
since the issue of this reactionary missive. 12 And not without 
reason. Not only had the French king broken faith with 
the Emperor by disowning the Treaty of Madrid; the 
Pope had absolved him from his treaty obligation, had 
transferred his alliance from the Emperor to his enemy, 
and had engineered a hostile league against him (the League 
of Cognac, May 1526), which combined himself, Francis, 
the Swiss, Venice, Florence, and Duke Sforza of Milan, 
with the goodwill of Henry VIII. Pope and Emperor were 
now, therefore, enemies instead of allies, and the alteration 
in the international situation justified the assumption that 
the imperial instruction no longer represented the religious 
policy of the Emperor. 

a Bezold, " Geschichte der Deutschen Reformation," 577 ; Hausrath, 


10 Walch, xvi. 244-247, communicated 3rd Aug. 

11 Ibid., xvi. 249-250. 

14 Ranke, ii. 255, 284 (1925 ed.). 

278 Luther and the Reformation 

Nor was this assumption ill-founded. In this emergency 
Charles was already considering the religious question in 
the light of the altered political situation. By adopting the 
expedient of a General Council he could embarrass the Pope, 
and, by conciliating the Lutheran princes to the extent of 
at least modifying the Worms Edict, he could secure their 
co-operation in the struggle with the combination which 
the Pope had formed against him. On his own initiative he, 
therefore, dispatched a new instruction on the 27th July annul- 
ling the penal clauses of the Edict and referring the further 
consideration of the religious question to a General Council. 

Meanwhile the Diet had reached a decision in virtue of 
its own authority. 13 Whilst resolving to send a deputation 
to Spain 14 to request the convention of a General, or at 
least a national, Council and the suspension meanwhile 
of the Edict of Worms, it simply decreed that, until the 
convocation of this Council, each Estate should so act in the 
matter of the Edict of Worms as its members should answer 
to God and the Emperor. 15 

This decision or Recess (Reichstagsabschiecl), as it was 
officially termed, was undoubtedly but a temporary arrange- 
ment. It was not, as Ranke assumed, 16 a constitutional 
enactment which conferred on the Lutheran princes the legal 
right henceforth to establish reformed territorial churches 
apart from any further interference on the part of Emperor 
or Diet* It expressly recognised, in fact, the responsibility 
of the various Estates to the Emperor as well as to God in 
this matter, and it is evident that neither Charles nor the 
Romanist princes would forego their right to revise this 
decision when the political situation should permit them to 
do so. At the same time, it foreshadowed the principle on 
which the religious problem in Germany was ultimately to 

18 Ranke assumes that the Diet had received the second imperial 
instruction before coming to its final decision, ii. 258, 288 (1925 ed.). 
This was evidently not the case, as the Diet had already separated before 
the arrival of the second communication to the imperial commissioners. 

14 In the Recess of the Diet the Estates mention that they have sent 
this deputation, Walch, xvi, 267. But it does not seem to have actually 

15 Walch, xvi. 268. 

16 "Deutsche Geschichte," ii. 261, 290 (1925 ed.). 

The First Diet of Spires 279 

be settled the principle of territorial sovereignty and was 
in accordance with the dominant political tendency in the 
empire. This tendency was, and had long been manifesting 
itself in the growth of particular territorial sovereignties 
at the expense of the general sovereignty of both the Emperor 
and the Diet, and in the Recess of Spires we may see the 
virtual, if temporary, recognition of it in the sphere of religion 
as well as politics. As applied to ecclesiastical matters, 
it was, however, a startling departure ; for whilst, politically, 
the trend in the empire had been towards particularism, the 
mediaeval conception of ecclesiastical uniformity had hitherto 
been supreme, though the princes had been striving to assert 
their power in matters ecclesiastical and the popes had been 
fain to reckon with the fact. Moreover, on both political 
and ecclesiastical grounds, it was the interest of the Emperor 
to withstand the tendency towards disintegration which the 
Reformation was thus threatening to intensify, and it was 
not difficult to foresee that the alteration of the international 
situation in his favour would be followed by a determined 
attempt to reverse the Recess to the advantage both of the 
imperial authority and the traditional Church. 

Happily for the Reformation the respite afforded by the 
Recess of Spires enabled the Lutheran princes to materially 
extend the movement and consolidate it within their terri- 
tories. It had, the year before the meeting of the Diet, 
received a notable recruit in Albrecht of Brandenburg, 
Grandmaster of the Order of Teutonic Knights, who, as we 
have seen, transformed East Prussia into a secular duchy, 
with which the King of Poland, whom he agreed to recognise 
as feudal superior, invested him in April 1525. The 
Brandenburg or Hohenzollern family furnished other influ- 
ential recruits in the Margraves Casimir and George of 
Ansbach-Baireuth. Within the next four years it extended 
its sway over Silesia, part of Pomerania (one of whose dukes, 
Barnum, became a Lutheran), Schleswig, Holstein, East 
Friesland. The greater part of north Germany, as well as a 
large number of cities in the south, was professedly 
Lutheran. 17 It had penetrated to such outlying regions of 

17 For the rapid extension of Lutheranism in the north during this 
period, see Ranke, ii. 322 f., 354 f. (1925 ed,). 

280 Luther and the Reformation 

the empire as Bohemia and the Netherlands and had taken 
a hold in lands beyond its borders in Denmark and Sweden, 
in Scotland and England, in France, and even in Spain and 

Its rapid spread in the northern German principalities 
was due in part to the preaching of zealous Lutheran 
propagandists like Bugenhagen. It was due, too, to the 
policy of secularisation, which transferred to the territorial 
sovereign the ecclesiastical lands, and in too many cases 
helps to explain the facility with which these petty sovereigns 
professed submission to the Gospel. The greed of ecclesias- 
tical property was not indeed all on the Lutheran side, and 
it is significant of the mercenary spirit of an age in which 
zeal for the old faith contrasts with zeal for the new, that 
such professedly staunch Romanists as the Archduke 
Ferdinand and the Duke of Bavaria were ready enough, on 
occasion, to help themselves to the lands and wealth of the 
old Church as the price of their devotion to the Pope and 
the hierarchy. Even the Emperor was advised by his aunt 
Margaret, the Stadholderin of the Netherlands, to propose 
to the Pope the extensive confiscation of Church lands in 
order to furnish the means for the war against the Turks, 18 
and Charles's Spanish councillors are found suggesting the 
seizure even of the temporal possessions of the Papacy, in 
the imperial interest, in Italy. 19 


Luther's conception of the Church, of which the germ 
is already apparent in his early lectures on the Psalms and 
the Epistle to the Romans, i.e., before I5I7, 20 had gradually 

18 Bezold, 564. 

lf Ibid., 547 ; Berger, " Luther," ii., Pt. II., 122-125. 

80 Holl, (< Aufsatze, J> 288f.,andwithhimKattenbusch, < DieDoppel- 
schichtigkeit in Luther's Kirchenbegriff," " Theol. St. und Krit." 
(1928), 197 f., maintain that he had already thus early attained to his 
distinctive conception of the Church. Whilst this is so far the case, 
as it was an implication of his doctrine of justification by faith, this 
implication is not fully developed, and Luther, in writing of the Church 
in these early works, is not conscious of any real divergence from the 
current Roman Catholic one. He is not yet in conscious opposition 

Organisation of the Evangelical Church 281 

taken distinctive form in the conflict with his Romanist 
opponents. This conflict had resulted, as we have seen, 
in a complete revulsion from the papal-hierarchical conception 
and the substitution of that of the community of believers, 
directly subject to Christ, its head and lord. The Church, 
as thus ultimately conceived, is the communion of saints 
or believers (Communio Sanctorum aut Fidelium) of those 
who believe in Christ through the Word of God, appropriated 
by faith. In formulating this conception Luther thus 
conjoins the two articles of the Apostles' Creed, " I believe 
in the Holy Catholic Church, in the Communion of Saints," 
and, in accordance with his doctrine of justification, the 
emphasis is on faith in the Word or Gospel as the source of 
faith. In virtue of their common faith in the Word and 
their mutual and active love, as the fruit of faith, believers 
form a spiritual community 21 or people (Volk der glaubigen). 
Otherwise expressed, they are a mystical body (corpus mysti- 
cuni), of which Christ is the head and they are the members. 
The great protagonist of individual faith in the sense that the 
believer must for himself enter into direct personal relation 
to God in Christ, Luther nevertheless does not lose sight of 
the relation of the individual believer to other believers. 
Hence, alongside the emphasis on individual faith, the 
additional emphasis on the common faith in the Word, or 
Gospel, which binds all believers together in the spiritual 
community, the Church, or as he prefers specifically to 
term it, the Christenheit? 2 in the sense of the sum total of 

The Church in this spiritual sense is the necessary and 
indispensable corollary of the personal faith which is shared 
by all believers, and by which they are bound together in the 
one communion or community. It is the antithesis of 
the papal-hierarchical Church the visible, legally constituted 

to the traditional Church even in criticising the abuses rampant in it, and 
can, therefore, hardly be said to be fully conscious of the differentiating 
principle of the Church that was to separate him from the Roman 

11 For Luther communio and congregatio are identical terms. 
Kattenbusch, 225, 

* a Kattenbusch, 230 f. 

282 Luther and the Reformation 

institution through which grace, salvation is mediated by the 
clerical hierarchy under its supreme head, the Pope. Being 
based on faith in the Word, or Gospel, which belongs to the 
spiritual sphere, it is essentially spiritual, invisible. To 
differentiate between the invisible and the visible Church 
is, therefore, really inaccurate, though Luther himself may 
do so at times in speaking of the Church and its outward 
form. The invisible and the visible are rather to be con- 
sidered as two aspects or sides of the same thing. In so 
far as it exists for the preaching of the Word and the dis- 
pensation of the sacrament (the verbum visibile) by those 
entrusted with this function, it takes a visible, external, 
regulated, though not necessarily an identical form. 23 

Luther's conception of the Church thus differs from that 
of Zwingli, Calvin, and ultimately that of Melanchthon as 
well as from that of the Romanists. Whilst the Romanists 
identify the invisible with the visible Church, Zwingli, 
Calvin, and Melanchthon differentiate sharply between them. 
The former consists of the elect known only to God (soli 
deo cognita), the latter is the actual Church as existing on 
earth. For Luther, on the other hand, the invisible is at the 
same time the visible Church inasmuch as it is both the 
totality of believers in the Word, and therefore, faith being 
spiritual, an invisible reality perceptible only to believers, 
and the visible manifestation of this spiritual reality in the 
common life of believers. 24 

The practical result of this conception of the Church as 
a spiritual association, based on the Word and bound together 
by a common faith, would have been an organisation free 
from State control, if to a certain extent accepting, for 
practical reasons, the co-operation of the secular authority. 
Theoretically the Church, which consists of all true believers, 
is subject only to Christ and is ruled only by His Word, in 
contrast to the papal hierarchical development of it and 
the kingdoms of this world. It has nothing to do with either 

88 Rietschel, "Luther's Anschauung von der Unsichtbarkeit und 
Sichtbarkeit der Kirche," " Theol. Stud, und Krit." (1900), 404 f . ; 
Kattenbusch, " Doppelschichtigkeit," ibid., 1928, 206 f. 

34 In both cases it seems to be perceptible to, or apprehended only by 

Organisation of the Evangelical Church 283 

canon law or secular law. Canon law is the work of the 
devil and must be destroyed root and branch, and in this 
spirit he had thrown a copy of it into the flames along with 
the papal Bull. Nor has it anything to do with civil or 
common law, because it is a spiritual association. The only 
rule pertaining to it is that which derives from the Word of 
God, as expressed in the preaching of the Word and the 
administration of the sacraments. So conceived, the Church 
has no need of anything of the nature of a man-made 
constitution, involving a legal, coercive jurisdiction. It has 
all that it requires for its corporate life in the spiritual rule 
of Christ and the Word and such organisation as is necessary 
for the election and ordination of the pastor or bishop, 
the maintenance of preaching and the administration of the 
sacraments. According to this conception each congregation 
is an independent spiritual unit, living its religious life and 
regulating this life under the headship of Christ and in 
accordance with His Word as its all-sufficient law, if main- 
taining fellowship with all other communities of believers 
in virtue of a common faith and love. Anything of the 
nature of ecclesiastical law (Kirchenrecht) with the force 
of State sanction behind it is inapplicable to it. 26 The State 
has no coercive jurisdiction in relation to the Church, even 
if its co-operation in furthering its interests may be 

How, then, did it come about that Luther is found, in 
his early period as a Reformer, assigning to the secular 
power an active part in the Reformation of the Church and 
ultimately inviting the Elector to direct the organisation 
of the Saxon Church ? Sohm finds the explanation of this 
difference between theory and practice in the fact that 
Luther retained the mediaeval conception of the Church 
and the State 26 as the two sides of the one Christian common- 

25 This conception is elaborately worked out by Sohm, " Kirchen- 
recht," i.46of. (1982). 

86 " Kirchenrecht/' 542 f., particularly 558 f. See also his more 
recent work, " Weltliches und Geistliches Recht " (1914). Luther 
generally uses the term Obrigkeit to denote the secular power. It is in 
this concrete fashion rather than in the modern sense of the State, which 
did not exist in his day, that he differentiates between the two powers, 
spiritual and temporal. 

284 Luther and the Reformation 

wealth or kingdom of God (the two swords or powers, the 
ecclesiastical and the temporal). On this conception Rieker 
based his thesis that at the outset (particularly in the 
" Address to the Nobility") he contemplated the establishment, 
not of a purely voluntary, autonomous Church of believers 
independent of the secular authority, but of a Church in 
close alliance with it as an integral part of the Christian 
body (Corpus Christianum)? 1 * or, as Luther termed it, the 
Christenheit in the medieval sense. It was, he thinks, 
under the influence of this conception, that in the " Address 
to the Nobility " he summoned the State to undertake the 
Reformation of the Church. Whether Luther was so con- 
sciously influenced by the mediaeval conception of the close 
relation of Church and State as jurists like Rieker suppose, 
is not explicitly apparent from the " Address " itself. The 
reasoning on which he based the right of the State to intervene 
in the affairs of the Church is theological, not juristic. The 
jurists are, in fact, as a rule the objects of his special aversion. 
This right rests mainly on his specific doctrine of the priest- 
hood of all believers, by which the State, as an integral 
part of the Christian body, is entitled, nay, is under obligation 
to exercise its function in the Reformation of the Church, 
which the ecclesiastical power had hitherto failed effectively 
to undertake. In thus empowering the State to intervene 
in matters ecclesiastical, Luther, according to Rieker, laid 
the foundation of what ultimately became the accepted 
ecclesiastical polity in the Lutheran principalities (Landes- 
herrliche Kirchenregiment). This thesis has given rise to an 
elaborate discussion on the question whether or not Luther's 
ideal was a Reformed Church virtually independent of 
the State. In this discussion both jurists and theologians 
have participated down to the present time without reaching 

27 " Die Rechtliche Stellung der evangelischen Kirche Deutschlands " 
(1893).. Drews energetically, but by no means convincingly, controverts 
his thesis. " Entsprach das Staatskirchenthum dem Ideale Luther's ? " 
" Zeitschrift fur Theologie und Kirche" (1908), Erganzungsheft, I f. 
See Hermelink's criticism, " Z.K.G." (1908), 479 f- Holl rejects 
the phrase Corpus Christianum as not historically applicable to the 
mediaeval conception of Church and State. This is merely a modern 
expression. He thinks that respublica Christiana or populus Christianus 
comes nearer to the mediaeval idea. " Aufsatze," 341-342. 

Organisation of the Evangelical Church 285 

anything like an exact agreement on Luther's view of the 
relation of Church and State. 28 Miiller, for instance, contends 
that in the "Address " Luther conferred on the secular power 
only a very limited jurisdiction in matters ecclesiastical, and 
carefully distinguished between the ecclesiastical and the 
secular sphere. Whilst the secular power should take the 
initiative in the reformation of practical abuses, its function 
does not extend to purely spiritual things, which are reserved 
for the reforming ecclesiastical Council to be convened 
by the secular authority. 29 With this contention Holl 
agrees. 30 Kohhneyer, on the other hand, argues that in 
the "Address " Luther attributed to the State in relation to 
the Church a wider jurisdiction in the matter of reform 
than these writers are prepared to admit, and the evidence 
seems to me to bear out his contention. 31 If the constituted 
authorities of the Empire, to which the " Address " was 
directed, had undertaken the Reformation to which he sum- 
moned them, if they had accepted his evangelical teaching, the 
State would evidently, in virtue of its evangelical character, 
have acquired an intimate relation to the Church and played 
an active part in its organisation and government, though this 
is not definitely set forth in the "Address " itself. Luther, 
for instance, in speaking of the ecclesiastical reorganisation 
of the local community, assigns to the town authority an 
important position in relation to this community. 

The hope of such a Reformation in virtue of the active 
intervention of the secular power proved, however, illusory. 

88 See the works of Foerster, Sehling, Brandenburg, Karl Miiller, 
W. Kohler, Rade, Troeltsch, Holl, Drews, Hermelink, and others. 
For a careful review of the literature of the subject see Kattenbusch, 
" Doppelschichtigkeit," and that of W. Kohler in " Z.K.G." (1917-18), 
I f . Other recent discussions are those of Jordan, ' ' Luther's Staatsauffas- 
sung " (1917); Meinecke, " Luther iiber Christliches Gemeinwesen," 
" Hist, Zeitschrift " (1920), I f. (an illuminating criticism of Holl's view) ; 
Bredt, " Neues Evangelisches Kirchenrecht fur Preussen," i. (1921); 
H. A* Preus, " Luther's Doctrine of the Church in His Early Writ- 
ings," Edin. Univ. Thesis (1928). 

** " Kirche, Gemeinde, und Obrigkeit nach Luther," 19 f. (19x0). 

ao " Luther und das Landesherrliche Kirchenregiment," 26 (1911); 
" Aufsatze," 326 f. (1927). 

M " Entstehung der Schrift Luther's an den Christlichen Adel," 
21 f. (1922) ; Mackinnon, " Luther and the Reformation," ii. 245. 

286 Luther and the Reformation 

Within little more than six months from its publication, 
the proceedings of the Diet of Worms proved incontestably 
that the demand for an evangelical Reformation at the 
hands of either the State or a General Council was merely 
crying for the moon, in spite of the fact that the national 
sentiment was largely favourable to his cause. No wonder 
that Luther, in view of the hostile Edict of Worms and the 
reactionary attitude of the Reichsregiment and the second 
Diet of Niirnberg, abandoned the idea of a Reformation 
carried out by the Estates of the Empire and became much 
less disposed to recognise their functions in matters 
ecclesiastical. In the tract on " The Secular Power " and 
other writings of the years 1521-25, he sharply 
differentiated, as we have seen, between the temporal 
and the spiritual spheres. In the task of organising the 
evangelical Church he now turns, not to the princes, but 
to the community of believers, though he still leaves room 
for the co-operation of the territorial or the local authority. 
The secular power princes, counts, local superiors, town 
councils may and, in fact, ought to co-operate to a certain 
extent in this task. But to the Christian community itself 
belongs primarily the right and the duty to organise and 
govern itself under the lead of its pastor or bishop, with 
the goodwill and, within certain limits, the co-operation of 
the secular authority. His ideal of the Christian community 
is a voluntary association of believers free from State 
control, if, for practical reasons, accepting the assistance 
of the secular authority in the actual work of organisation. 32 
It was this ideal that he sought to realise in his missives 
to the Church at Leisnig and to Hausmann, pastor at Zwickau, 
in 1523, in which the organisation of the local community 
is based on the Christian-democratic principle that its 
members have the right to make the proposed changes. 88 
Similarly in the missive to the senate and people of Prague, 
written in the same year, he recognises the right of the 
Christian community to elect and depose its ministers and 
asserts the priesthood of believers, which invests them with 

M See Holl, " Landesherrliche Kirchenregiment," 37 f. ; " Auf- 
satze," 354 f- 

" " Werke," xi. 408 f.; xii. 11 f,, 205 f. 

Organisation of the Evangelical Church 287 

the power to confer all ministerial functions on the person 
or persons who perform them in their stead. 34 He was 
even prepared to carry his ideal of an autonomous Church 
the length of establishing at Wittenberg and elsewhere a 
Church in the more spiritual sense within the Church in the 
more popular sense. The former should consist of all real 
Christians who are prepared to subject themselves wholly 
to Christ and His Word ; the latter of all professed Christians 
who have not attained to this advanced stage of the Christian 
life. The former should have their particular assemblies 
for worship and edification, and should submit to a strict 
discipline exercised by the members over one another; 
for the latter the ordinary services should suffice. The 
former forms the Bekenntniskirche composed of those con- 
fessing Christ in the fullest sense the latter the Volkskirche, 
embracing the people in general. 35 He was, however, fain 
to confess that this ideal was in present circumstances 
impracticable, and was debarred from attempting to realise 
it by the lack of the means to do so and the fear of thereby 
fostering mere sectarianism. 36 

Such attempts to devise and bring into operation a 
democratic organisation of the local Christian community 
did not, however, prove successful. Besides, the outbreak 
of the Peasant War, which supervened on them, appears to 
have shaken his faith in a religious democracy. 87 The Rising 
not only intensified his mistrust of the people, but so 
aggravated its misery and demoralisation that any further 
practical attempt to organise the local community on a 

M "De Instituendis Ministris Ecclesiae," "Werke," xii. 172, 178, 

B See the preface to the " Deutsche Messe," " Werke, " xix. 72 f. 
(1526) ; Sehling, " Die Evangelischen Kirchenordnungen," i. 10 f. 

See preface to " Deutsche Messe," 12; Holl, " Landesherrliche 
Kirchenregiment," 37 f.; and " Aufsatze," 358 f.; Karl Muller, 
39-40; Hermelink, "Luther's Gedanken fiber Idealgemeinden," 
" Z.K.G." (1908), 312 f. 

7 Holl (" Landesherriiche Kirchenregiment," 41; "Aufsatze," 
361) and Hermelink ("Z.K.G." (1908), 320) think that the experience 
of the Peasant Rising had no appreciable effect on Luther's undemocratic 
organisation of the Saxon Church. This seems to me a very doubtful 

288 Luther and the Reformation 

democratic basis might well seem hopeless. Moreover, in 
the work of organisation Luther had not entirely discarded 
the co-operation of the secular power where this was avail- 
able. Even if he had been disposed to revive the primitive 
Christian ideal of a self-governing community wholly inde- 
pendent of the State, he could not ultimately ignore the 
territorial prince, if only because the territorial prince had 
become the dominant power in the empire and without 
his sanction and co-operation the Reformation could hardly 
be consolidated. The territorial prince had, moreover, been 
asserting his power in matters ecclesiastical long before the 
Reformation, and this even with the papal sanction. 38 In 
view of this tendency there was, in any case, not much chance 
of the realisation of the theory of a purely spiritual Church 
independent of the State and of any human polity. An 
autonomous Church on the basis of the Word could hardly 
develop in the face of the political trend towards princely 
absolutism, especially as Luther, whilst emphasising the 
distinction between the spiritual and the temporal sphere, 
preached the divine right of the secular authority, the 
Obrigkeit, and in the political sphere was a staunch supporter 
of this absolutism, 

It is, therefore, hardly surprising that he disapproved 
of the democratic polity which was proposed by Francis 
Lambert, the ex -Franciscan monk of Avignon, whom 
Zwingli had won for the Reformation and who became 
the Reformer of Hesse, at a Synod convened by the 
Landgrave Philip at Homberg in October 1526. According 
to this scheme, which is an anticipation of the Presbyterian 
system of polity, the Church, which is founded on the Word 
of God, consists of the whole body of believers. 39 It 

11 Bredt, " Neues Evangelisches Kirchenrecht fur Preussen," i. 
163 f. (1921) ; Pallas, " Die Entstehung des landesherrlichen Kirchen- 
regiments in Kursachsen vor der Reformation " (1910) ; Dietrich Schafer, 
"Deutsche Geschichte," ii. 38 (1916); Bezold, " Geschichte der 
Deutschen Ref.," 565; Hashagen, "Die Vorreformatorische Bedeut- 
ung des spatmittelalterlichen landesherrlichen Kirchenregiment," 
" Z.K.G." (1922), 63 f.; and " Landesherrliche Ablasspolitik vor der 
Reformation," ibid. (1927), II f. 

* Ecclesia autem dei congregatio fidelium, Richter, " Die Evange- 
lischen Kirchenordnungen des i6 ten Jahrhunderts," i- 61. 

Organisation of the Evangelical Church 289 

recognised the right of each congregation to elect its pastor, 
elders, 40 and deacons, and excommunicate unworthy members, 
and committed the general oversight and government of the 
whole Church to a synod or general assembly, consisting of 
the pastor and elected representatives of each congregation, 
which should meet once a year. For the supervision of the 
churches of the various districts, visitors or superintendents 
are to be appointed annually by the synod. The prince 
and the nobles may attend the synod and vote, and the 
prince fixes the place of meeting. But the Church, as a 
religious association founded on the Word of God, is an 
autonomous body. The scheme was an anticipation on paper 
of what ultimately became the presbyterian system of Church 
government. It contemplated the organisation of a practic- 
ally autonomous Church in alliance with the State (the 
co-operation of the prince in the government of the Church, 
though not his supremacy over it, being recognised), and it 
was ultimately destined to be realised in the Reformed 
Churches of Switzerland, France, Holland, Scotland, America. 
But it did not commend itself to Luther, who objected to 
such an elaborate legislative scheme, 41 and owing to his 
opposition it was not adopted in Hesse or in the other 
Lutheran principalities. Ranke ascribes its rejection in 
these principalities to the fact that the princes took an 
active part in directing and controlling the establishment 
of the Reformation, whereas in France, Holland, and Scotland 
it was laigely a popular movement and it perforce acquired 
a more democratic character. 42 He ought to have added, 
however, that even in Germany the constitution and 
organisation of the Church varied with the character of the 
civil government. In the Free Imperial cities, for instance, 
the government was based on the representative principle, 
to a certain extent at least, and this principle made itself 
felt in the government of the Church, which thus reflected the 

40 He usually refers to the ministry of a congregation as consisting 
of the bishop, i.e., the pastor, and the deacons (episcopus et diaconi). 
But he refers also to elders (seniores, veteres, presbyteri), ibid., 60, 63, 66. 

41 Letter to the Landgrave, 7th June 1527, " Werke," 56, 170 
(Erlangen ed.) ; Enders, vL 9. 

* 2 ".Deutsche Geschichte," ii. 37-3 8 ; " 34o f. (1925 ed,). 

290 Luther and the Reformation 

democratic spirit of Luther's teaching, in this matter, in a way 
that could not apply in the States under absolute princely rule. 
Despite his theoretical conception of the Church and his 
doctrine of the priesthood of believers, Luther was thus fain 
to make a virtue of expediency and to seek the aid of the 
secular power in the organisation of the Church in Germany. 
His recourse to the Elector was really a step towards the 
subjection of the Church to the State and to a system of 
Protestant ecclesiastical law imposed by the State and 
dependent on it for its validity. The necessity of taking 
measures to bring order into the chaos resulting from the 
situation produced by the Reformation, rendered it impossible 
to carry out the theory of the Church as a spiritual institution 
on the basis of the Word alone. Moreover, Luther was 
disposed to be less revolutionary in practice than in theory, 
and was prepared, on certain conditions and on grounds of 
expediency, to recognise what he combated in principle. 
He was even prepared to tolerate the papal hierarchical 
jurisdiction as long as the Gospel was preached and the 
freedom of the individual conscience recognised. The 
ecclesiastical constitution, though it rested on man-made 
law, might be suffered to exist as part of the historic inherit- 
ance, if the faith and conscience of the individual Christian 
were left in freedom. The fact is that he had not the genius 
of the ecclesiastical statesman and did not lay anything like 
the same stress on ecclesiastical as on purely religious 
questions. This was his strength, but it was also his 
weakness. As Dollinger aptly says, " He was the founder 
of a religion rather than of a church." In this respect he 
differed from men like Calvin and Knox, who were born 
organisers as well as reformers, and left their impress on 
institutions as well as doctrines. 43 Luther, on the other hand, 

48 Hennelink (" Z.K.G." (1908), 408) thinks that Luther had far 
more organising talent than is usually ascribed to him. He thinks 
that, in practical sense, he deserves a place alongside a Bismarck and 
other great German Realpolitiker. This may be true in the sense that 
he was remarkably ready to adapt himself to circumstances with a sort 
of high-minded opportunism. But it is perfectly evident that he had not, 
like Calvin or Knox, the organising genius in the sense of formulating 
and systematically applying in practice a set of clear-cut constitutional 

Organisation of the Evangelical Church 291 

was less inclined to legislate in such matters. In the 
preface to the German Mass of 1526, for instance, he still 
emphatically disapproves of legislating uniformity of worship 
in the Saxon Church. Though he would be glad to see this 
uniformity freely adopted, he would not dream of restricting 
the conscience of the individual by a general law on the 
subject. 44 The personality and genius of the various 
reformers had, in fact, not a little to do with the constitutional 
form which the Reformed Church assumed in the lands in 
which the Reformation triumphed. The existing political 
situation was also a moulding factor. " Our decisions/' 
said Melanchthon, " are mere platonic laws if the Court 
does not give them its sanction and protection." 

Luther saw in the decision of the first Diet of Spires 
on the religious question the recognition of the right of 
the evangelical princes to organise the territorial Church 
on reformed lines. 45 Accordingly, in November 1526 he 
besought the Elector John, as head of the State, to initiate 
measures to this end within the Saxon electorate. 46 He 
adduces the miserable state of religion and education in the 
electorate as the result of the prevailing religious anarchy 
and demoralisation. Now that the old system has been 
undermined, the people are lacking in a sense of responsibility 
for the maintenance of the preaching of the Word and the 
education of their children. Each one is disposed to live 
as he pleases. Hence the necessity for the prince to take 
upon himself the lapsed ecclesiastical function of the bishops 
as far as the work of organising a new order of things is 
concerned. He seems, indeed, to have contemplated only 
the temporary exercise of this function, until, that is, the 
work of reformation and organisation should be completed 
(Notepiscopaf),^ The prince, as the possessor of the 
supreme power in the State, is to use his authority in the 
interest of the Church, and is not assumed to exercise the 
episcopal authority in purely spiritual matters. In reality, 

44 Sehling, i. lo-n. 

45 Sohm, " Kirchenrecht, 11 576. 

48 " Werke," 53, 386-388 (Erlangen ed.), and the Elector's favourable 
reply, Enders, v. 407-408. 
47 Sohm, 585. 

292 Luther and the Reformation 

however, the prince takes the place of the bishop in taking 
the initiative in ordering the affairs of the new Church, and 
the first step is made in subjecting the Church to the 
State. 48 

In response the Elector appointed four visitors two of 
his councillors, Planitz and Haubitz, and two Wittenberg 
professors, Melanchthon and Schurf 49 and drew up an 
" Instruction and Command " for their guidance. In this 
document (i6th June 1527) the Elector assumes the right 
as well as the duty to make such a visitation, which is 
carried out by the visitors in virtue of his ordinance. They 
are directed to investigate the teaching and life of the 
clergy and schoolmasters, to displace those who are found 
incapable, to punish those who preach error and all sectaries, 
especially those who hold erroneous views of the sacrament 
and thus disturb public order, with banishment in both 
cases. The Elector professes, indeed, not to prescribe what 
anyone is to believe and to disallow sects only in the interest 
of order. 60 But practically he leaves no alternative but to 
believe and act as he prescribes, or quit his territory, and 
makes his will the arbiter of permissible belief. This in- 
quisition is to apply to the laity as well as the clergy. They 
are, further, to make an inventory of all ecclesiastical revenues 
and teinds, on which, apparently, the nobility and the 
municipal authorities are laying hands; 51 to provide for 
the maintenance of the clergy out of these revenues, and 
where these are insufficient, to arrange a yearly contribution 
from the parishioners ; to introduce as far as possible 
uniformity of worship ; to take measures for the proper 
administration of the poor funds ; to appoint district 

* 8 Burckhardt, Kawerau, and others see in the recourse of Luther to 
the Elector a renunciation by him of his idea of the Church as a purely 
spiritual institution. Sohm, on the other hand, combats this assumption 
(587-588), andMuller and Holl agree with him in holding that it was 
merely a temporary expedient, rendered necessary by the situation. 

** Enders, v. 407-410, 26th Nov. 1526. He requested the university 
to suggest two names, whilst he himself nominated the other two and 
commissioned them on the 4th and I3th February 1527. 

50 Sehling, i. 144. 

51 Luther in his letter to the Elector, in Nov. 1526, expressly says 
that this was the case, " Werke," 53, 388 (Erlangen ed.). 

Organisation of the Evangelical Church 293 

superintendents over the clergy ; and to see that public 
order and morality are maintained by the local authorities. 52 
In accordance with this Instruction the visitors carried out 
a preliminary visitation in the summer of 1527. The 
investigation revealed a shocking state of disorder and 
demoralisation and emphasised the necessity for a more 
thorough inquisition and a systematic organisation of the 
Saxon Church. To this end Melanchthon, at the Elector's 
request, drew up and Luther and Bugenhagen revised the 
" Church Ordinance," or " Kirchenordnung," for a practical 
and constitutional Reformation. 53 In the preface which he 
wrote for it, Luther adduces, in vindication of the visitation, 
the practice of the Apostles and the ancient Church, which 
the bishops have neglected with disastrous results to religion 
and morality. He would fain have invested the evangelical 
preachers with this function. But the necessary authority 
for making such changes being lacking, the Elector, following 
the example of the Emperor Constantine in dealing with the 
Arian heresy, must temporarily take it on himself in virtue 
of his divinely ordained office as head of the State. At the 
same time, he expressly disclaims his right " to teach and 
exercise spiritual rule," and bases his action on the duty 
of the prince " to prevent division, sects, and tumult among 
his subjects/' M This limitation is not, however, in keeping 
with the terms of the " Instruction," in which the prince 
does assume the right not merely to prevent division and 
tumult, but to direct, sanction, and enforce the reformation 
of teaching and ecclesiastical institutions as well as practical 
abuses. Luther evidently did not approve of this far- 
reaching extension of the secular jurisdiction over the 
Church, and sought by this disclaimer to safeguard its 
spiritual rights. For him it is merely a temporary and 
exceptional measure. Practically, however, in spite of his 
caveat, the " Kirchenordnung " is the work of the Elector 

" Sehling, i. 35, 142 f. 

*' "Unterricht der Visitatoren, 1528," Sehling, i. 149 f-; Richter, 
" Die Evangelischen Kirchenordnungen des i6 ten Jahrhunderts," i. 
77 f. ; " Corp. Ref.," xacvi. 48 f. ; Lietzmann, " Der Unterricht der 
Visitatoren, 1528," Kleine Texte, 87 (1912). 

" SehliDg. i. 151. 

294 Luther and the Reformation 

and the officials appointed by him, and marks a farther step 
in the direction of subordinating the Church to the State, 55 

Whilst striving to preserve the independence of the 
Church, as an ideal at least, Luther has become less tolerant 
of conscientious religious opinions that differed from his 
own. In 1524 he was still prepared to allow even the 
prophets to express their views and to leave truth to vindicate 
itself. In 1526 he stresses the necessity of unity of belief, 
and supports the Elector's policy of penalising dissent from 
approved doctrines and institutions. In February 1526, for 
instance, he tells the Elector, in reference to the recalci- 
trant canons of Altenburg, that it is his duty to suppress 
the old ceremonies. " A secular ruler may not tolerate that 
disunity and division should be fostered by insubordinate 
preachers. Revolt and sectarian dispeace would be the 
inevitable result. Therefore only one doctrine should be 
preached in every place. With this argument the Niirn- 
bergers silenced the monks and closed the monasteries/' 56 

The " Kirchenordnung " forms alike a confession of 
faith, a directory of public worship, and a scheme of educa- 
tional reform. The doctrinal sections set forth in simple 
language the main points of Luther's evangelical teaching, 
which the pastors are to teach the people. They are to 
preach the whole Gospel and nothing but the Gospel of 
repentance, the forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ, 
the helplessness of the will and man's dependence on God, 
etc. It is, however, evident that his doctrine of faith and 
freedom had to be somewhat modified in accordance with 
the condition of the people. The visitation revealed in truth 
a lamentable state of demoralisation an ignorant, starved, 
indifferent, immoral clergy ; a peasantry still more ignorant 
and largely estranged from religion. No wonder, after the 
bloody repression of the emancipation movement, that the 

55 K. Muller's attempt (" Kirche," etc., 72 f.) to reconcile Luther's 
preface with the Instruction is not very forcible, and Holl recognises 
(47 f. ; " Aufsatze," 373 f.) that the Instruction practically established 
the territorial Church under the Elector's supremacy. 

" " Werke," 53, 386 (Erlangen ed.). On Luther's lapse from his 
characteristic principle of toleration from 1526 onwards, see Murray, 
" Erasmus and Luther/' 255 f 

Organisation of the Evangelical Church 295 

people in Spalatin's words, " despise us as they formerly 
despised the Papacy/' Hence, whilst the characteristic 
evangelical doctrines are enunciated, the stress laid on the 
necessity of preaching the law as well as the Gospel, which 
gave offence to zealous Lutherans like Agricola, who angrily 
challenged Melanchthon's legalism and was with difficulty 
meanwhile pacified by Luther. The Ten Commandments 
are to be diligently taught and stress laid on works, a good 
Christian life, practical piety as the fruit of faith. The people 
is evidently in a state of rudeness and ignorance in which 
the gospel of freedom is apt to be mistaken for a gospel of 
licence. The late rising, which is pointedly referred to, 
explains the emphasis laid on subjection to the Obrigkeit 
and the dominant social system. Any attempt to revolt 
against the law of the land is to be denounced and exemplarily 
punished as a subversion of the divine ordinance, though the 
Obrigkeit is reminded of the duty of ruling justly, and against 
those who would repress the Gospel the command to obey 
God rather than man is emphasised. In regard to the 
sacraments, that of penance is retained, but whilst repentance 
is emphasised and confession is to be made to the pastor 
before communion, the doctrine of penitential satisfaction 
is rejected and the satisfaction made by Christ substituted. 
Baptism is to be performed in the fashion hitherto usual, 
without quarrelling about chrism, on the understanding 
that the true chrism is that of the Holy Spirit. The sacra- 
ment of the body and blood is explained in the sense of 
consubstantiation, and communion in both kinds is to be 
positively preached and practised, with liberty, provisionally, 
to weak brethren, who have conscientious objections, of 
communion in one kind. Those who adopt an attitude of 
obstinate opposition to such teaching are, however, to be 
debarred from communion. The Mass, on the occasion 
of the communion, is to be sung by preference in German 
on the model of the German Mass composed by Luther for 
this part of the service in I526. 57 But Masses for the dead 
and prayers to the saints are abolished, though the saints 
may be honoured as examples of God's grace and for the 

17 Deutsche Messe und Ordnung Gottesdiensts, " Werke," xix 44 f. 

296 Luther and the Reformation 

quickening of faith and good works. The chief Church 
festivals are to be observed as giving greater opportunity 
for instruction in God's Word, not as if they were in 
themselves a special means of grace. Prayer, the importance 
of which is dwelt on, does not consist in repeating so many 
paternosters and psalms, but in diligently seeking the fulfil- 
ment of God's promises in faith and sincerity of heart* 
Such ordinances are to be observed as having the sanction 
of the civil authority, though it is not the function of the 
Obrigkeit to ordain a new worship (which, however, it 
practically does), but to enforce the observance of them 
for the maintenance of peace and love among its subjects. 

In the matter of worship, the people are to assemble every 
morning in the church to sing these psalms in Latin or 
German, to hear the Word of God read, followed by the 
Lord's Prayer, a German hymn, and a collect. Similarly in 
the evening, with the addition of the singing of the 
Magnificat, or the Te Deum, or the Benedictus, or Quicumque 
Vult. On Wednesdays and Fridays, besides Sunday, and 
on special festival days, sermons are to be preached in 
which the Gospel, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the 
Lord's Prayer are to be explained. In their sermons the 
preachers shall refrain from vituperation against the Pope 
and the bishops, and only refer to such subjects in as far as 
this is necessary for instruction and example. Those guilty 
of notorious sins are not to be admitted to communion and, 
after several warnings, are to be excommunicated, if they 
do not amend their conduct. There is to be no disputing 
on practices indifferent in themselves. On, for instance, the 
practice of ringing the church bells as an invitation to 
prayer on the outbreak of storms, which may be continued. 
The pastor shall, however, instruct the people against the 
superstitions connected therewith the notion, for instance, 
that in virtue of consecration the ringing of the bell has the 
effect of driving away the storm. 

In order that the Word of God may be purely and faith- 
fully preached, the sacraments rightly dispensed, and a good 
Christian life in subjection to the Obrigkeit maintained, the 
superintendents shall exercise a careful supervision of the 
clergy. They are empowered to instruct those of the clergy 

Second Diet of Spires and Protestation 297 

who are lacking in doctrine and life and, in case of dis- 
obedience, to advise the local officials who shall bring the 
matter to the notice of the Elector. In the case of the 
filling of vacant churches, they are to examine those 
nominated by the patron to vacant charges in order that 
the people may have capable and fit preachers. 

Finally, for the better education of the clergy and also 
in the interest of the service of the State, the training of the 
children must be improved. To this end an outline is given 
of a scheme of lessons adapted to the various stages of 
instruction in the schools. The course includes, for the 
lower classes, besides a careful grounding in the Latin 
grammar and portions of Latin authors, religious instruction 
and singing. In the highest class the more apt pupils shall 
receive intensive instruction in Latin, including the reading 
of Ovid, Virgil, Cicero, and a training in dialectic and 

The visitation was not only the beginning of an urgently 
needed practical reformation of the religious life. It proved 
to be the first step towards the establishment of the consis- 
torial constitution which invested the government of the 
Church, under the supremacy of the territorial prince, in a 
body of State officials or consistory, composed of theologians 
and jurists. The definite introduction of this system into the 
Saxon Church dates from 1538, though it was only subse- 
quently developed. Under the Roman Catholic system 
the government of the Church was in the hands of the 
bishops and ecclesiastical lawyers under the supreme 
authority of the Pope. Under the reformed Lutheran 
organisation this system was so far retained in the regime 
of a consistory of theologians and jurists under the supremacy 
of the State, 


Whilst a beginning was thus being made with the 
organisation of the evangelical churches, the Landgrave 
Philip was striving to negotiate an extension of the league 
in their defence against the day of reaction. To this end he 

298 Luther and the Reformation 

entered into communication with the south German cities, 
with Zwingli, with Zapolya, the rival of Ferdinand for the 
crown of Hungary, with Denmark and Sweden, and even 
with Francis I. of France. With the political activity of 
the Landgrave, which Zwingli actively seconded, the 
Reformation enters as a force into international politics from 
the side of the reformed party itself, and this party tends 
to become a political as well as a religious one, with which 
the European rulers are fain to reckon. It is no longer 
merely a case of the Reformation being a movement to be 
used for political purposes by a Charles V, or other potentate. 
It tends to become a political power which was erelong to 
find corporate expression in the Schmalkald League and to 
make its weight felt in the chanceries of Europe. 

The Spires Recess, which enabled the Lutheran princes 
to consolidate and organise the evangelical movement, left 
the Romanists free to repress it within their territories, and 
the continuation of the persecution of the Lutherans, the 
beginnings of which we have already noted in Austria, 58 
Bavaria, and the Netherlands, and which inspired one of the 
most rousing of Luther's songs, 59 seemed to emphasise the 
necessity of the Landgrave's precautionary diplomacy. A 
meeting of the leaders of the anti-Lutheran party Duke 
George of Saxony, the Elector Joachim of Brandenburg, 
and the Archduke Ferdinand at Breslau in May 1527, 
aroused the suspicion of an aggressive Romanist combination, 
and this suspicion, though in reality unfounded, seemed 
to find confirmation in the revelations of Otto von Pack, 
an official of Duke George's chancery. This adventurer 
produced a document purporting to be a copy of an agree- 
ment between the leaders of the anti-Lutheran party for a 
concerted attack on the Elector of Saxony and the Landgrave, 
and the confiscation of their territories. 60 The document 
was a forgery, but the impulsive Landgrave, who paid the 
forger 4,000 gulden, without taking the precaution to test 
its genuineness by making representations to the parties 
concerned on the subject, set about concerting a counter- 

5 * See Ferdinand's mandate against the Lutherans in Walch, xvi. 433. 

89 Ein neues Lied wir heben an. 

* See the document in Walch, xvi. 445-452. 

Second Diet of Spires and Protestation 299 

attack with the Saxon Elector. The Elector went the 
length of collecting a force, but refrained from actually 
beginning hostilities in deference to the opposition of Luther 
who, as usual, deprecated the use of force and urged the 
desirability of at least waiting until they were attacked. 61 
The Landgrave was, however, less pliable, and whilst sending 
the compromising document to his father-in-law, Duke 
George, threatened, on the strength of his intrigues with 
Zapolya and Francis L, to invade 62 the bishoprics of Maintz, 
Bamberg, and Wiirzburg (May 1528). He discovered too 
late that he had been the dupe of a crafty scoundrel, whose 
concoction Duke George and the other members of the 
would-be conspiracy indignantly rebutted, 63 and aggravated 
his blunder by making the bishops pay the costs of the 
preparation for his impulsive policy. 

His rashness, which only intensified the persecution of 
the Lutherans in Romanist territories, was all the more 
impolitic in view of the international situation. Charles 
had once more had the best of it in the renewed war with 
his rival, Francis. The Pope had paid dearly for his hostility 
in engineering the League of Cognac in the capture and sack 
of Rome in May 1527, by a German-Spanish force under 
Bourbon, and his flight to Orvieto. Charles's brother, 
Ferdinand, had succeeded in getting himself elected King 
of both Bohemia and Hungary in 1526, and in thus founding 
the Austro-Hungarian state in spite of the opposition of 
Zapolya and the ill will of the Duke of Bavaria. In these 
circumstances the fugitive Pope was fain to enter into a 
negotiation with the Emperor, which was concluded at 
Barcelona in June 1529 and included the co-operation of both 
in a crusade against the Turks and the heretics. Francis was 
disposed to follow suit, and ultimately came to terms with 
his rival in the Treaty of Cambrai (August 1529). 64 The 
international situation had, therefore, once more taken an 

61 " Werke," 53, 447 f. and 54, i (Erlangen ed.) ; cf. Enders, vi. 
258 f. 

64 He did not actually invade Wurzburg, however, as Ranke asserts 

(in- 34)- 

63 See their disclaimers in Walch, xvi. 457 f. 

* For these negotiations see Pastor, " History of the Popes," x. 32 f. 

300 Luther and the Reformation 

adverse turn for the evangelical party in Germany, which 
was both divided and discredited by the Landgrave's rash 
enterprise and lost the support of Duke Henry of Mecklenburg 
and the good will of the Elector Palatine. 

Charles was thus free to attempt, without any effective 
opposition, to reverse the Recess of Spires at a second Diet 
which convened in the same city in March 1529. To this 
end he directed his commissioners to promise the speedy 
convention of a General Council, which he has reason to 
believe that the Pope will agree to summon, to require, 
in virtue of his imperial authority, the various Estates 
of the empire to maintain meanwhile the traditional 
faith and usages under pain of the imperial ban, and to 
declare the Recess of the former Diet null and void. 65 
The autocratic tone of this communication, which was an 
unwarrantable infringement of the rights of the Estates, 
was ill-fitted to rouse the enthusiasm of the assembly. But 
the Romanist party was present in full force on this occasion, 
and in its zeal for the faith, which was intensified by recent 
events, was not disposed to resent this unconstitutional 
imperial dictation. The evangelical party, on the other 
hand, was weakened by the doctrinal differences which 
had begun to estrange the adherents of Luther from those 
of Zwingli, who by this time could count on a considerable 
following in the south German cities. Its representatives on 
the Grand Committee, to which the discussion of the question 
was, in the first instance, referred, were in a hopeless 
minority, and were powerless to prevent a reactionary 
decision which, though it did not go the length of ostracising 
the evangelical faith outright, allowed it to exist only on 
sufferance. Whilst in Roman Catholic States the Edict of 
Worms was to remain in force as heretofore, no further 
innovations were to be made on the Lutheran States, pending 
the meeting of the promised Council or, failing this, a German 
national assembly. In these States Roman Catholics were 
not to be prevented or forbidden to attend Mass in the 
traditional form, which shall not henceforth be abolished, 

5 Kaiserliche Proposition presented to the Diet by the Archduke 
Ferdinand and his fellow-commissioners, isth March 1529, Walch, 
xvi. 318-322. 

Second Diet of Spires and Protestation 301 

evidently even in cases where the local congregation might 
adopt the evangelical faith and desire to observe the evangel- 
ical rite. Zwinglians, who deny the real presence, and 
Anabaptists as fomentors of sedition, shall not be tolerated 
throughout the whole empire, and the Anabaptists shall be 
summarily punished in accordance with an imperial mandate 
to this effect. The decrees of the Diets of Niirnberg relative 
to preaching and the press shall be rigorously observed. 
Nor shall any Estate presume to infringe the rights of another 
under penalty of the imperial ban a proviso which 
might enable the episcopal jurisdiction to be restored in 
the Lutheran principalities and cities in which it had been 
practically abolished. 66 

Without actually declaring the illegality of the evangelical 
faith, as the Emperor demanded, the decision of the Com- 
mittee assured the exclusive supremacy of the old religion 
in the Romanist States and paved the way for a Romanist 
reaction within the Lutheran principalities and cities, whilst 
absolutely prohibiting the profession of any other form of 
the evangelical faith. The differentiation between Lutherans 
and Zwinglians was a skilful device for playing off the one 
against the other and thus paralysing the evangelical 
opposition. In his alarm for the future, the nervous 
Melanchthon, 67 who accompanied the Elector John, was 
ready to play the game of the Romanists and advised him 
to sacrifice the Zwinglians- This pusillanimous tactic was 
happily frustrated by the Landgrave Philip, who was less 
hampered by dogmatic bias than the theologians, and realised 
the importance of presenting a united front to the enemy. 
At his instigation the evangelical princes, at the sitting on the 
I2th April, united in appealing, on their own behalf and that 
of their subjects and all adherents of the Gospel, against the 
decision of the Committee, on conscientious grounds, and 
also on the strength of the Recess of 1526. In this Appella- 
tion, and the reasons adduced in support of it, they aver that 
they are actuated solely by consideration of the honour of 
God and His Word and the salvation of their souls and by 

e Walch, xvi. 323-328. 

7 For his anxiety see letters in " Corp. Ref.," i. 1039 f. ; Ellinger, 
" Melanchthon." 238 f. 

302 Luther and the Reformation 

fidelity to conscience. Whilst they are ready to render 
due obedience to the Emperor and to further the welfare and 
peace of the empire, they cannot act against their conscience 
in a matter involving the honour of God and their salvation. 
Nor can they be a party to the execution of the Edict of 
Worms even in the territories of the Romanist princes, 
since such acquiescence would be equivalent to the approval 
of the Edict on their part and the condemnation of what 
they hold to be the truth. Nor, further, can they agree 
to the restriction of their liberty relative to the Mass, which 
they hold to be contrary to the plain teaching of the Word 
of God and which, as contrary to the institution of Christ, 
they cannot conscientiously suffer to exist within their 
territories. Such demands are unjust and are incompatible 
with the Recess of 1526, which they have undertaken to 
observe and the majority of the present Diet has no right to 
override, pending the meeting of a General Council, to which 
both parties have agreed to relegate the religious question. 
On these grounds they cannot accept the proposed Recess, 
though they are ready to come to an arrangement relative 
to the Anabaptists and the control of preaching and the 
press. 68 

These arguments failed to shake the Romanist majority 
of the Diet, which voted in favour of the decision of the 
Committee (i2th April), and on the igth the Imperial 
Commissioners formally accepted it in the Emperor's name 
and requested the opposition to acquiesce. 69 Whilst the 
evangelical princes retired to consider their answer, they 
abruptly left the sitting. Whereupon the princes handed in 
a Protestation, in which they declare their determination 
to adhere to the Recess of the former Diet ; protest against its 
unwarrantable supersession by the present Diet, without 
their consent ; deny the right of the majority to impose its 
decision in this matter on the minority, and refuse on 
conscientious and constitutional grounds to recognise its 
validity or regard it as binding on them. Otherwise they 

68 Walch, xvi. 364 f. ; Ney, " Die Appellation und Protestation der 
Evangelischen Stande auf dem Reichstag zu Speier" (1529), 27 f. 
(" Quellenschriften zur Geschichte des Protestantismus," 1906). 

" Walch, xvi. 380 f. ; Ney, 46 f. 

Second Diet of Spires and Protestation 303 

are prepared to accept the clauses of the new Recess relative 
to the Anabaptists, the censorship of the press, and respect 
for the rights of the various Estates. They request that the 
Protestation be included in the Acts of the Diet, and declare 
their intention to forward it to the Emperor and publish 
it along with a detailed statement of the reasons of their 
refusal to recognise the decision of the majority. 70 In 
the vain hope of securing the reconsideration of this decision 
they sent the Protestation on the following day to King 
Ferdinand, who forthwith returned it. Equally vain the 
negotiation with the representatives of the more moderate 
members of the majority, the Margrave Philip of Baden 
and Duke Henry of Brunswick, to bring about an accom- 
modation, which the evangelical princes were prepared to 
accept. King Ferdinand and the majority rejected the 
proposed modification of the terms of the Recess, and at 
the sitting of the 22nd April, from which these princes 
absented themselves, it was finally signed and sealed and the 
request for the inclusion of the Protestation in the acts of 
the Diet refused. 71 

The Protestation bore the signatures of the Elector of 
Saxony, the Margrave George of Brandenburg, the two 
Dukes of Liineburg, the Landgrave Philip, and Prince 
Wolfgang of Anhalt. On the 25th of April it received the 
formal adhesion of fourteen cities, including Strassburg, 
Niirnberg, Ulm, and Constance, and three of them 
Strassburg, Niiniberg, and Ulm joined the Elector and 
the Landgrave in a secret pledge to support one another in 
its defence. Whilst Luther approved of the Protestation 
and joined with Melanchthon in adducing reasons in support 
of the Elector's attitude, 72 he strongly disapproved of any 
alliance in its defence. He was content to entrust the 
maintenance of his cause to Providence, who would know 
how to defend the right. His conscience would not permit 
him to defend the Gospel by force. Nor did he believe that 
the Romanists had either the force or the heart to face a 
civil war. Moreover, such a league would only beget a 

70 Walch, xvi. 383 f. ; Ney, 50-53. 

71 Walch, xvi. 387 f. ; Ney, 53 f- 
71 Walch, xvi. 360-364, 

304 Luther and the Reformation 

counter-league and might easily lead to a conflict which they 
would otherwise rather avoid. He was, too, afraid, after the 
experience of the previous year, that the impulsive Landgrave 
would mate use of such a combination for attack instead 
of defence. In any case, an alliance with the south German 
Zwinglians, who differed from him on the Sacramentarian 
question, and whom he intolerantly regarded as " enemies 
of God and His Word," was for him absolutely indefensible. 78 

From the constitutional point of view, the contention 
of these " Protestants, 1 ' as they came to be termed, that 
the majority of the present Diet could not reverse the 
decision of the previous one, or require their adherence to 
a deliverance of this kind to which they had not consented, 
was of dubious validity. 74 The Recess of 1526 was after 
all but a temporary agreement, and though it was to hold 
till the convention of a Council, it left the Emperor, who had 
not consented to it, free to convene another Diet to deliberate 
anew on the question. It evidently did not contemplate 
the final disruption of the Church by the establishment of 
independent evangelical churches in Lutheran territories 
and cities. Moreover, it was within the province of a 
regularly constituted Diet to legislate further, or not, on 
the question, if the Emperor should submit proposals for its 
consideration, and revise or reverse the law according as 
the majority should decide. 

The real strength of the Protestation lay, not in the 
right of the minority legally to defy the will of the majority, 
but in the appeal to the higher law of conscience, to the 
duty of obeying God rather than man in the matter of 
the soul's salvation. " We fear God's wrath more than we 
fear the Emperor's ban." It was in opposing this conviction 
to the will of the majority that the real significance and 
the real justification of the action of the minority lay. It 
was the repetition on a larger scale of the protest of Luther 
at Worms on behalf of the individual conscience, of which 
it was the fruit, and though it was still but the protest of a 
comparatively small minority, the principle for which this 

71 " Werke," 54, 72-74. Letter to the Elector John, 22nd May 1529. 
74 Ranke adopts the view of its validity, *' Deutsche Geschichte," 
iii. 107-109. Also Hausrath, " Luther," ii. 233 f., and others. 

Second Diet of Spires and Protestation 305 

minority stood had made a very material stride towards its 
ultimate vindication. 

Unfortunately its champions had not advanced to a 
true apprehension of the principle they professed. They 
rightly objected, on conscientious grounds, to be deprived 
of the right henceforth to abolish the Mass in their territories 
in favour of the evangelical faith should the local congrega- 
tion so desire. They forcibly pointed out the injustice 
and intolerance of prohibiting the evangelical faith in 
Romanist territories, whilst obliging them to maintain the 
Mass in their territories, and disallowing their right to debar 
anyone from participating in its celebration. Roman 
Catholic historians like Janssen in charging them with 
intolerance conveniently ignore the intolerance on the 
other side. But apart from this aspect of the question, 
their assumption of the right to override the conscience of 
their Romanist subjects in the matter of the Mass was 
entirely inconsistent with their insistence on the imperative 
claims of conscience in their own case. Moreover, while 
protesting on behalf of liberty of conscience for themselves, 
they declared their readiness to acquiesce in the repression 
of Anabaptists, though happily their names do not appear 
in the list of those who signed the savage mandate which 
consigned them to fire and sword, and which the Diet 
accepted, 75 and it found at least one dissident in the 
Landgrave Philip, who appears to have protested against it. 

76 Walch, xvi. 351 f. On the Diet of 1529 see, besides the documents 
in Walch and Ney, Ranke, " Deutsche Geschichte," iii. ; Janssen, 
"Geschichte des Deutschen Volkes," iii.; Ney, "Geschichte des 
Reichstags zu Speier, 1529 " (1880) ; Brieger, " Der Speierer Reichstag " 
(1909) ; and the older works of Muller, " Historic von der Evangelischen 
Standte Protestation und Appellation " ; and Jung, " Geschichte des 
Reichstags zu Speier." 



THE cleavage in the evangelical party had its origin in the 
divergence of view on the question of the real presence in 
the Lord's Supper. In the " Babylonic Captivity " Luther 
had controverted the doctrine of transubstantiation and 
substituted for it that of consubstantiation, i.e., the bodily 
presence of Christ in the bread and wine, not the miraculous 
transmutation of their substance into the body and blood. 
On his own testimony he had first been led to doubt the 
traditional doctrine on reading a passage in D'Ailly's 
commentary on the Sentences, and had finally rejected it 
for the more rational one of consubstantiation. More 
rational, that is, in so far as it enabled him to discard the 
artificial distinction between the substance and the accidents 
of the bread and wine by which the scholastic theologians 
had sought to render plausible the notion that while the 
substance of the bread and wine was miraculously changed 
into the body and blood of Christ, their accidents form, 
colour, taste, etc. remained intact. 

But the theory of consubstantiation, if simpler and 
comparatively more rational, was still mysterious and 
irrational enough, and Luther would fain have found a 
still simpler explanation of the words, " This is my body " 
(Hoc est corpus meum). Only the difficulty of wholly 
emancipating himself from the scholastic teaching on the 
subject and his ingrained reverence for the letter of Scripture 
kept him from advancing a step farther and accepting the 
words of institution in a spiritual, symbolic sense. This 
step was taken by the Netherland jurist Hoen, or Honius, 
who, under the influence of Wessel Gansfort's treatise on 


The Sacramentarian Controversy 307 

the Eucharist, interpreted the words in this sense. In the 
summer of 1522 (the probable date) he argued, in a letter 
to Luther, in behalf of this interpretation, and along with 
the letter sent him the works of Wessel. 1 Christ, he explained 
in words that show that he had read Luther's sermon on 
the Sacrament (1520), had ofttimes promised His disciples 
the forgiveness of sins, and in the Last Supper He gave them 
a pledge (pignus) in confirmation of this promise and for the 
strengthening of their faith. The words, "This is my 
body," are, however, not to be taken literally, but 
figuratively. The " is " here means " signifies," " repre- 
sents," as in other figurative sayings of Christ, and must 
be read in the light of the Eucharistic discourse in John vi. 
and other figurative passages. Christ is present only in a 
figurative sense to believers for whom He has given His body 
and blood, and who distinguish between the bread received 
into the mouth and Christ Himself, whom they have received 
in their hearts by faith. The passage does not, therefore, 
warrant the doctrine of transubstantiation, which is a 
figment of the scholastic theologians. 2 

Luther was by no means prepared to accept this 
interpretation. He had already expressed doubts about the 
view of the Bohemian Brethren, 3 who emphasised the 
spiritual rather than the bodily presence of Christ, though 
he was disposed to leave the question of the adoration of 
the host, to which they objected in particular, an open 
one.* These communications from Hoen and the Brethren 

1 He entrusted the letter and Wessel's works to his friends Rode 
and Saganus who were proceeding to Wittenberg, Enders, iii. 423. 
There is not sufficient ground for questioning (with Gobel, " Studien 
und Kritiken," 332, 1842) Hoen's authorship of the letter and regarding 
it as the composition of Wessel himself. See Enders, iii. 424. The 
probable date is, as Dieckhoff has shown, 1522 (" Die Evangelische 
Abendmahlslehre im Reformationszeitalter," i. 278 f.) ; Enders, iii. 
424-425. Clemen thinks it was written in the spring of 1521 , c< Z.K.G.." 
xviii. 353 f. 

a Enders, iii. 412-421. 

9 Ibid., iii. 364. 

4 Ibid., iii. 363-364, 397-399. Letters to Speratus, i6th May and 
1 3th June 1522, on the Bohemian view, on which his correspondent had 
written to him, and which, as these letters inform us, was communicated 

308 Luther and the Reformation 

impressed him with the necessity of clearly defining what 
he deemed the true doctrine. Hence the treatise, " On the 
Adoration of the Sacrament of the Sacred Body of Christ/' 
which he addressed to the Brethren in the spring of 1523^ 
In the first half of it he joins issue with Hoen in his most 
dogmatic tone, though without actually naming him. 6 The 
words, " This is my body, 1 ' are not to be figuratively but 
literally understood. That reason cannot comprehend how 
the real body and blood can be in the bread and wine does 
not invalidate the plain testimony of these words. That we 
cannot understand the fact of the real presence is no reason 
why we should not believe it on the strength of this testimony. 
Without an express declaration of Scripture to the contrary, 
we are bound to accept the passage as it stands, and have 
no alternative but to believe in the bodily presence. To 
substitute without this warrant " signifies " for " is " is to 
deal arbitrarily with the text, and this principle of exegesis 
would endanger the whole truth of Scripture. He further 
controverts the argument for a spiritual interpretation 
based on the words of Paul in the loth and nth chapters of 
I Corinthians, to which Hoen appealed, and concludes a 
laboured argumentation by insisting on the literal sense as 
the only admissible one against both the Spiritualists and 
the Romanists. 

Carlstadt, on the other hand, was disposed to adopt a 
more receptive attitude on this, as on other questions on 
which he differed from Luther. It is not quite clear whether 
he had read Hoen's letter, 7 though this seems to me probable. 
At all events, from 1523 onwards he appears as the convinced 
champion of the spiritual as against the bodily presence, 
and as the result of the interview with Luther at Jena, 
he attacked the Lutheran position in the series of tracts which 

by a deputation of the Brethren. In these communications he assumes 
that the Brethren believe in the real presence, though he is not satisfied 
with their mode of expression on the subject, especially their tendency 
to interpret it m the light of John vi. 

* "Von Anbeten des Sacraments des heiligen Leichnams Christi," 
" Werke," xi. 431 f. 

" Werke," xi. 434 f- 

1 See Barge, " Karlstadt," ii. 150-151. 

The Sacramentarian Controversy 309 

he published at Basle after his banishment from Saxony 
in the autumn of 1524. Christ's sacrifice, he contended, 
was made on the Cross on which He gave His body and blood 
for our redemption, not in the Supper, and the breaking of 
the bread, the drinking of the wine, are a symbolic and 
commemorative celebration of this sacrifice. In proof thereof 
he explained that Christ in the words, " This is my body 
which is given for you," did not refer to the bread, but 
pointed to his actual body. This exegesis is certainly a 
strained one in view of the preceding words, " Take, eat," 
etc. But while explaining the words differently from Hoen, 
he agrees with his contention that there can be no bodily 
presence of Christ in the bread and wine. Christ can only 
be spiritually present, since the body in which He ascended 
is in heaven and will not reappear on earth till He come 
again. Luther's doctrine of the real presence is merely the 
Romanist doctrine in a modified form, and is both un- 
scriptural and unevangelical. He draws the same conclusion 
from the relative passages in I Corinthians, John vi., etc. 8 

Carlstadt's doctrine was keenly discussed by the 
Strassburg theologians Capito, Bucer, Hedio, and their 
colleagues who, on the 23rd November 1524, wrote to 
Luther on the subject. Whilst condemning Carlstadt's 
personal attitude towards him, they clearly indicated that 
they practically shared his view of the spiritual presence, 
and begged him to explain his position with a view to the 
cessation of this distressful strife, which was causing such 
jubilation among the Romanists. 9 In reply he sent a letter 
warning them against this radical teaching. 10 At the 
same time, he confesses that he would fain have adopted the 
spiritual view and that it had cost him a hard struggle to 
reject it. " I confess that if Dr Carlstadt or any other 
could have convinced me five years ago that there is nothing 
in the Sacrament but bread and wine, he would have done 
me a great service. I have been sorely tempted on this 
point and have struggled hard to bring myself to look at 
the matter in this light, because I saw that I could thereby 

Barge, ii. 151 f. 10 " Werke," xv. 391 f., ijth Dec, 

9 Enders, v. 59 f. 

310 Luther and the Reformation 

deal the Papacy the hardest blow. I read the views of two 
writers who treated the subject more skilfully than Carlstadt 
(i.e., Hoen and Francis Kolb, pastor at Wertheim), and did 
not wrest the Word in accordance with their own imagination. 
But I am taken captive and cannot believe otherwise. The 
text is too mighty for me and will not be wrested from its 
sense in this fashion. Yea, if to-day anyone would show 
me on sufficient ground that there are only bread and wine, 
it would not be necessary to attack me with so much 
animus as Carlstadt has done, since I am only too disposed 
to believe it as far as the old Adam is concerned. But 
Carlstadt's vapourings have only led me to hold more strongly 
the opposite view/' u 

He promised to deal more exhaustively with the question 
in a future work, and this promise he straightway fulfilled 
in his counterblast, "Against the Heavenly Prophets," 
which is alike a vindication of his relations with Carlstadt 
during the previous two years and a counter-attack on his 
radical teaching. 12 The Strassburg theologians had begged 
him to eschew his opponent's acrid style and discuss the 
subject without animus. Unfortunately by this time the 
very name of Carlstadt, who ascribed to him his expatriation 
from Saxony and had latterly denounced him as a new 
papist, a false teacher, and a follower of Antichrist, had 
become as the red rag to the bull. He belabours him with 
abuse as well as argument in his most objurgatory style. 
Carlstadt is the very devil who strives, through him, to 
subvert the divine ordinance and the truth of Scripture. 
He hotly resents and refutes the charge that, while he has 
rejected the Mass as an offering, he has retained the word in 
his modified liturgy and also the elevation of the host, and 
has thus perpetuated the old superstition. In striving to 
maintain this contention, Carlstadt shows himself an 
ignoramus in both Greek and Hebrew. He makes sport 
of his exegesis of the words, " This is my body," and insists 
anew that they must be taken as they stand without evasion 

11 "Werke," xv. 394. 

" Ibid., xviii. 62 f. It appeared in two parts, at the beginning and 
end of Jan. 1525 respectively. 

The Sacramentarian Controversy 3 1 1 

or exegetical sophistry of this kind. " It is a hard and 
clear saying which compels assent by its own plain 
testimony." 13 It is confirmed, not invalidated, by Paul 
in the ist Epistle to the Corinthians. How, he asks, for 
instance, can they who eat and dnnk unwittingly be guilty 
of the body and blood of the Lord, if these are not in the 
bread and wine ? To appeal to reason against such an 
interpretation is to subvert faith and fall into the sophistry 
of the schoolmen. In thus rationally reading the text in 
the light of John vi. 63 and other passages, which seem 
to tell against the real presence, Carlstadt has surrendered 
himself to the wiles of Frau Hulda, that " devil's bride/' u 
as he calls Reason, who is the personification of demonic 
lying and error. It is this hellish seducer that suggests 
a variety of sceptical questions in confutation of the real 
presence. Carlstadt asks, for instance, how the real presence 
consists with Christ's saying, " The flesh profiteth nothing " ? 
Luther replies that the saying refers not to Christ's sacra- 
mental flesh, but to the fleshly disposition of the Jews, 
though he had previously referred it to Christ's own body. 
This certainly is suggestive of a tendency to make the text 
suit the argument. Again, how could Christ call the bread 
His body, if, on Luther's own reasoning against tran- 
substantiation, the bread nevertheless remained bread ? The 
schoolmen had attempted to solve the puzzle by miraculously 
transmuting the substance of the bread into the body, 
leaving only the accidents, and thus practically eliminating 
it altogether. Luther, in discarding transubstantiation and 
substituting for it consubstantiation, had previously 
attempted to render his doctrine intelligible by the illustra- 
tion of red-hot iron which constitutes both fire and iron. 
Since his opponent persists in rejecting this illustration, he 
now resorts to the figure of speech known among the 
grammarians as Synecdoche, 13 by which, whilst speaking 
of the whole of an object, we really have in mind only the 
part. Christ in using the word " This " means that His body 
forms part of the object in question, and it is this part 
(body) that He emphasises without thereby excluding the 

"Werke," xviii. 148. " Ibid., xviii. 205. Ibid., xviii. 186 f. 

312 Luther and the Reformation 

other (bread). He uses the term " This " inclusively, not 
exclusively. Both body and bread are there and mike up 
the whole, though the emphasis at the moment is on the 
part rather than on the whole. This exegesis as proof of 
the real presence seems, however, to the dubious reader as 
far-fetched as that of Carlstadt in proof of the spiritual 
presence, though it was destined to become a distinctive 
feature of the Lutheran argumentation on the subject. 
Again, Carlstadt, under the prompting of that seductive 
devil's bride, asks how the real presence in the Sacrament 
harmonises with Christ's saying that it is needful for Him 
to go away and that He would only come again at the 
last day ? Christ's glorified body, retorts Luther, is not 
limited to any place. It is ubiquitous, everywhere present, 
and His presence in the Sacrament is an indispensable 
source of comfort to the believer. For this reason also he 
controverts Carlstadt's contention that Christ obtained for 
us the forgiveness of sins on the Cross, not in the Sacrament. 
Whilst this is true, it is in the Sacrament that He com- 
municates it to the believer, who eats His body and drinks 
His blood, and thus imparts to him an inestimable consola- 
tion in the face of the recurring sense of sin and condemna- 
tion. Hence the cardinal significance, the absolute necessity 
of the literal, as against the symbolic interpretation of the 
words of Christ, which Carlstadt by his imaginary spiritual- 
ism, his emphasis on the inner Word at the expense of the 
outward Word, would rob of its supreme validity and 
substitute for it his own arbitrary subjectivism. 

Once more in this lengthy effusion, written with red-hot 
conviction, Luther gives proof of his wonderful dialectic 
resource. In his onslaught on the mediaeval sacramental 
system, he had strongly opposed the notion of inherent 
grace in the Sacraments, and emphasised faith as the essential 
which renders them efficacious as means of grace. Now the 
accent is on the Sacrament itself as embodying grace in 
virtue of the real presence, though faith is indispensable 
to a participation in this sacramental grace. In controversy 
with Carlstadt he seems to have reverted to the idea of 
inherent sacramental grace, whilst repudiating its mere 
mechanical operation To us this seems a lapse towards 

The Sacrament arian Controversy 313 

mediaeval materialism. To Luther it was a vital element of 
the religious life, inasmuch as it is in the Sacrament that 
the Word of Christ becomes effective in saving and 
sanctifying the soul. Hence the fierceness, the implacable 
intolerance with which he pursues his opponent throughout, 
as if his salvation depended on the interpretation of a single 
text. As in the case of the controversy with Erasmus it is 
a question of only one alternative. As to believe, with 
Erasmus, in free will, so to believe, with Carlstadt, in a 
merely spiritual presence is to play the devil's game and be 
damned accordingly. 

As in the one case, so in the other, Luther's one-sided 
vehemence tended to defeat itself. The Strassburg theolo- 
gians had asked him to give them a dispassionate discussion 
of the subject. Instead of this, he had allowed his one-sided 
dogmatic predilections to betray him into a wild, if brilliant 
philippic against Carlstadt, which was in some respects 
unfair to his opponent as well as outrageously vituperative. 
The luckless Carlstadt had, indeed, given him no little 
provocation in the matter of abuse and misrepresentation. 
But apart from this particular controversy, the question 
at issue was exciting widespread interest and concern, 
and to overwhelm Carlstadt by his brilliant dialectic and 
fierce invective was by no means to say the last word on 
the subject. Carlstadt's exegesis might be absurd. But 
Luther's was not necessarily irrefragable or fitted to carry 
conviction to others, who might find it difficult to share 
that of either. Moreover, Luther's contempt for reason, 
in spite of his own wonderful dialectic, his way of turn- 
ing on the devil's bride when confronted with awkward 
questions was certainly not likely to commend itself to those 
who, like Zwingli, had been trained in the school of Erasmus. 

Zwingli, as well as the Strassburg theologians and 
Oecolampadius of Basle, was, in fact, very unfavourably 
impressed by the violent and one-sided tone of the discussion. 
On the question of the spiritual versus the bodily presence 
they agreed with Carlstadt, if not with his exegesis, and thus, 
instead of disposing of the question, Luther had merely 
widened the controversy over it. 

In Zwingli it brought into the field a more formidable 

314 Luther and the Reformation 

opponent than Carlstadt. His early teaching on the subject 
was influenced by that of Erasmus, 16 whose disciple he was 
before he became the active evangelical reformer of Ziirich. 
Erasmus, whilst not directly attacking the doctrine of 
transubstantiation, went beyond the schoolmen to Augustine 
and Paul, and in his Paraphrases on the New Testament and 
the " Enchiridion " emphasised the symbolic, commemorative 
aspect of the Sacrament, the mystical union and communion 
of the soul therein with Christ, who, to faith, is really present 
in the elements, the fellowship of believers with one another, 
and the ethical significance and value of the rite. This is 
the teaching that is reflected in the writings of Zwingli up 
to 1524, in addition to the open rejection of transubstantia- 
tion. So far, he had reached the conclusion that the Lord's 
Supper is a commemoration, not a repetition, of the sacrifice 
which Christ offered once for all on the Cross and by which 
He obtained for the believer the remission of sin. In it 
Christ is really present, and the believer in a certain sense 
(not exactly defined) eats His body and drinks His blood. 
"There is no dispute/' he says in the Exposition of his 
sixty-seven Schlussreden, or Articles (July 1523), " whether 
the body and blood are eaten and drunk (for no Christian 
doubts this), but whether it is a sacrifice, or only the com- 
memoration of the sacrifice on the Cross." Christ is really 
present in the bread and wine to faith, which is thus the 
essential thing and which brings the believer into a mystical 
union and communion with Him. The bread and wine 
are, therefore, for him not yet purely symbols of Christ's 
body and blood, but are evidently apprehended in the 
Lutheran sense of the real presence. He is, in fact, on his 
own confession, at this period in agreement with Luther. It 
is thus hardly accurate, as far as the early period is con- 
cerned, to say, with Seeberg, that for Zwingli " the Sacrament 
is merely, on the one hand, a commemoration of the redemp- 
tion wrought for us by Christ, and, on the other, a confession 
of adherence to Him in the face of the congregation and 
thereby an obligation to live a Christian life." 17 It evidently 

"Staehelin, "Zwingli," ii. 220-223 (1897); Kohler, "Zwingli 
und Luther, '* i. 51 (1924). 

17 " Dogmengeschichte," iv. 378; cf. 377 (1917). 

The Sacramentarian Controversy 315 

involved a more mystical experience than these words 
suggest. 18 

In the supervening period of controversy with Luther 
and his adherents (1525-29) it is, however, the symbolic, 
commemorative aspect of the Sacrament that is in the 
foreground. In his early period Zwingli had already arrived 
at a spiritual interpretation of the words of institution. 
But he had not attained to an exegesis of the text which 
would establish this conviction This exegesis he found 
in the letter of Hoen, which was brought to him by Rode 
and Saganus in the summer of 1523 19 The letter made a 
profound impression on him, and, unlike Luther, he at once 
adopted the equation of " is " with " signifies " as the 
correct exegesis. He was not the man to surrender his 
reason, in deference to a dogmatic conviction, to what 
seemed to him an irrational interpretation when a more 
rational one was open to him. He was not disposed to 
divorce reason from faith in deference to Luther's dis- 
paragement of rational criticism. In this respect he 
remained a humanist after he became an aggressive 
evangelical reformer. 

Apart, however, from the difference in their attitude 
towards reason and rational Scriptural interpretation, the 
difference between their respective theological standpoints 
could hardly fail to bring the two reformers into collision 
on this question. Zwingli maintained that salvation is 

18 The standard work on Zwingli 's early conception of the Sacrament 
is that of Walter Kohler, " Zwingli und Luther," i., 1924. He shows 
by an elaborate investigation that in his earlier teaching Zwingli, 
following Erasmus, held the doctrine of the real presence, and that 
only after becoming acquainted with the view of Hoen did he expressly 
enunciate the symbolic interpretation of the words of institution. In 
his review of the book in the " Theolog. Blatter " (1926), Karl Bauer 
contended that Zwingli held from the outset the symbolic interpretation. 
Kohler's reply in the " Z.K.G." (1927), 397 f., seems to me to have 
disproved his contention. See, however, Bauer's reply, *' Z.K.G." 
(1928), 97 f, A recent discussion in English is Barclay's Ph.D. Thesis 
of Edin. Univ. (1926), published under the title of " The Protestant 
Doctrine of The Lord's Supper " (192?). 

19 The letter could not have reached him as early as 1521, as Bauer 
(" Zwingli's Theologie," ii. 279) contends. See Staehelm, " Zwingli," 
ii. 228-229; Clemen, " Z.K.G.," xviii. 346 f. ; Barclay, 54 (51-52). 

316 Luther and the Reformation 

attainable by faith in the atoning death of Christ on the 
Cross, and is not conditioned by any belief such as that of 
the bodily presence in the Sacrament. Faith needs no 
material prop of this kind to attain the assurance of the 
forgiveness of sins and eternal life accruing from Christ's 
sacrifice. Salvation comes through faith in this sacrifice, 
not through the Sacrament, though in the later phase 20 
of his teaching he again laid more stress on its mystical 
aspect. Luther, on the other hand, could not quite shake 
himself free from the mediaeval notion of the inherent efficacy 
of the Sacrament, the necessary channel for the operation 
of God's grace in the soul, though faith is necessary to the 
reception of the grace which it conveys. Thus, while to 
Zwingli it is a commemoration, a consecration, and a 
communion with Christ, who is spiritually present to the 
believer, to Luther it is the objective embodiment of 
the sacrifice of Christ, who is bodily present and with whom 
the believer comes into actual contact actually eats His 
flesh and drinks His blood and experiences the grace of 
forgiveness which it conveys. " The antagonism of the two 
views," says Staehelin, " appears in the fact that Zwingli 
places the meaning of the Sacrament in the historic atoning 
death of Christ, Luther in the communication of the bodily 
present Christ to the believer. According to Zwingli, Christ 
instituted in the Lord's Supper the memorial of His suffering 
and death ; according to Luther, a communion in which 
He continually offers Himself to man as the Word became 
flesh for his salvation, in order not only to strengthen his 
faith through this objective presentation of His redeeming 
work, but also in this miraculous fashion to communicate 
Himself to him bodily in His whole human-divine being/' a 
Moreover, whilst he regarded the notion of the real presence 
in the bread and wine as a materialising one and derogatory 
to the transcendental, spiritual nature of God, to Luther 
it was a comforting and convincing assurance of the divine 
mercy and goodness towards helpless, fallen humanity. 
However much stress he might lay on faith as the means of 

In the " Brief Exposition of the Faith," dedicated to Francis I., 
" Zwingli," ii. 237. 

The Sacramentarian Controversy 317 

salvation, he could not give up the notion of a substantial 
and sensuous experience of it, though he had cast away 
belief in the miracle of transubstantiation by priestly 

The excitement aroused by the Carlstadt-Luther polemic 
impelled Zwingli to declare himself. He wrote a letter to 
Matthew Alber, one of Luther's adherents in the controversy 
with Carlstadt, 22 in which, whilst finding fault with Carlstadt's 
exegesis and adopting that of Hoen, he expressed his approval 
of his spiritual conception of the ordinance and, on the 
ground of the figurative meaning of the words of institution 
and the saying of Christ in John vi. 63, condemned the 
doctrine of consubstantiation. He expounded his own view 
more at large in a treatise on " True and False Religion " 
(1525). His patronage of Carlstadt as much as his attack 
on the real presence called Luther into the arena, who, 
unfortunately, had no first-hand knowledge of his writings, 23 
and in his wrath identified his teaching with the extreme 
tendency of the prophets and declared both alike possessed 
of the devil. His embitterment was increased by the fact 
that many of the south German as well as the Swiss theolo- 
gians, and of the south German cities preferred Zwingli's 
teaching to his and became its strenuous propagandists. 
The result was a fierce pamphlet warfare in which, besides 
the two principals, Oecolampadius 24 of Basle, and with 
some modification the Strassburg divines, Bucer and 
Capito, took an active share on the side of Zwingli ; 
Mdanchthon, Osiander, Brenz, and Bugenhagen on that of 

The two main questions on which the controversy 
turned were the ubiquity or omnipresence of Christ's body, 25 

98 " Opera," iii. 569-603, Nov. 1524. 

M On this point see Kohler, " Zum Abendmahlsstreit zwischen 
Luther und Zwingli,*' " Lutherstudien zur 400 Feier der Reformation, '* 
115 .(1917). 

** On the part taken by Oecolampadius in the controversy up to the 
end of 1526, see " Briefe und Aktep zum Leben Oecolampads," ed. by 
E. Staehelin, i. (1927). His chief contribution to the subject up to this 
time is his " De genuina verborum Domini Expositione " (1525). 

* ft Luther had already touched on this question in his philippic 
against Carlstadt, " Werke," xviii. 206, 211. 

318 Luther and the Reformation 

and the relation of the two natures the divine and human 
in Him, which was involved in the former question. Zwingli, 
in a series of controversial tracts against Luther, 26 denied 
that Christ's body, which is in heaven, can also be in the 
bread, and maintained that what is said about His flesh 
and blood has reference to His divine, not to His human 
nature. He sought to make out his point by adducing the 
figure of speech known as Alloiosis (rhetorical exchange, 
Gegenwechsel)^ by which in speaking of the one nature in 
Christ we use the terms that properly belong to the other. 
Luther, on the other hand, maintained the omnipresence of 
Christ's body and denied the contention that what is said 
of the flesh and blood is to be referred only to the divine 
nature. Whilst Zwingli emphasised the distinction of the 
natures, which excluded the notion of Christ's bodily 
ubiquity, Luther emphasised their union, which made the 
bodily ubiquity possible, and strove to give plausibility to 
his contention in terms borrowed from the scholastic 
theology (Occam and Biel) in which, unlike Zwingli, he was 
an expert. Zwingli's contention that what is said of the 
flesh and blood really applies to the divine nature is an 
unwarrantable invention suggested by that devilish enchant- 
ress Frau Hulda (godless reason). 

Luther's contributions 28 to this paper warfare were 
marked by his characteristic vehemence as well as by his 
resourcefulness in argument. For him Zwingli and 
Oecolampadius are not only possessed by the devil. He 
denies them the name of Christians and regards them as 
no better than Miinzer and worse than the papists. Although 

24 The series comprises " Underrichtung vom Abendmahl " (1526) ; 
" Friindlich Verglimpfung " (1527); " Dass dise Worte Christi," etc. 
(1527) ; " Ueber Luther's Buch Bekenntnis " (1527) ; " Opera," ii. and 
iii. For a detailed examination of them see Staehelin, ii 289 f. 

27 Or Commutatio idiomatum, " Opera," iii 525 ; iv. 379. 

28 The two "Vorreden zum Schwabischen Syngramm " (1526), 
" Werke," xix. 447 f. The " Syngramma Suevicum " is a statement of 
their belief issued by Brenz and a number of Swabian preachers, of which 
Luther approved. " Sermon von dem Sacrament des Leibes und Blutes 
Christi, wider die Schwarmgeister " (1526), " Werke," xix. 474 f. (1526) ; 
"Das diese Worte Christi noch fest stehen" (1527), " Werke, " xxiii. 38 f. ; 
" Vom Abendmahl Christi Bekenntnis " (1528), " Werke," xxvi 241 f. 

The Sacramentarian Controversy 319 

he had so stoutly denied the right of the Romanists to make 
of transubstantiation an article of faith, he insists on their 
accepting his own view of the real presence, which was 
little less irrational, as an essential of the Gospel, and would 
have no fellowship with such perverters of the Gospel. " The 
fanatics throttle Christ and God the Father in His words, 
and my mother Christianity and my brethren in addition. 
They would furthermore have me dead, and after that they 
say I shall have peace and that they will live in charity 
with me." 29 " Cursed be such charity and such unity to 
the very bottom of hell, since such unity not only miserably 
disrupts Christianity, but makes sport and foolishness of it 
in devilish manner/' 30 In view of such outbursts the 
fanaticism of which he accused his opponents might more 
forcibly be retorted against himself. So fanatical and 
furious was he, that he was ready to stake the whole reform 
movement on the acceptance of the notion that the com- 
municant actually eats the body and drinks the blood of Christ 
under the semblance of a morsel of bread and a sip of wine. 
Zwingli, on the other hand, whilst giving vent to his 
indignation under the strain of such outrageous vituperation 
and stoutly vindicating his own view as the Scriptural and 
truly evangelical one, was ready to tolerate difference of 
opinion on the subject in deference to the obligation of 
Christian charity and for the sake of unity. If he insisted 
as dogmatically as Luther on his view of the question, he 
felt still more keenly the detriment and discredit which 
the controversy was bringing on the evangelical cause, and 
the clamant necessity of agreeing to differ and uniting in the 
defence of the essentials of their common faith. The con- 
troversy was driving the wedge of sectarian dispute into the 
ranks of the evangelical party at a time when it was suffering 
from the shock of the social revolution and exposed to the 
menace of an aggressive Romanist reaction. It was on this 
ground that, in spite of Luther's vituperative and irreconcil- 
able attitude, he eagerly welcomed the proposal of the 
Landgrave Philip to hold a conference on the subject at 
Marburg in the beginning of October 1529. 

* " Werke," xxiii. 82. 30 Ibid., xxiii. 80. 

320 Luther and the Reformation 


In proposing this expedient the Landgrave was actuated 
by concern for the defence of the Reformation, in its bearing 
on the political situation, rather than by a keen interest in 
the theological question at issue. 31 He saw the expediency 
of widening the defensive union, which the hostile decision 
of the second Diet of Spires had forced the Protestant 
princes and cities to form, so as to include Zurich, Berne, 
and the other Swiss Protestant cities as well as those of 
south Germany. On the other hand, the active antagonism 
of the Roman Catholic cantons to the evangelical cause, 
backed as it was by the Hapsburg power, emphasised for 
Zwingli the urgent desirability of an alliance on religious 
as well as political grounds between the south German 
cities and the Protestant cantons. In his apprehension of 
an aggressive Romanist reaction he even contemplated the 
disruption of the Swiss Confederation and the political as 
well as the religious union of the Protestant cantons with 
south Germany. Hence the alacrity with which he wel- 
comed the proposed Marburg Conference as a means not only 
of putting an end to the threatened schism of the evangelical 
party, but of cementing a great Protestant combination 
against the aggressive designs, both in Switzerland and in 
Germany, of the Emperor and the Romanists. Luther, 
on the other hand, could only with difficulty bring himself 
to confer with an antagonist who, in his eyes, was a diabolic 
enemy of the faith and, whilst ultimately yielding to the 
Landgrave's insistence, backed by the Elector John, ex- 
pressed his conviction that no good would come of the 
meeting. 3 * He had, moreover, no liking for the policy of 
defending the evangelical cause by force, and had not this 
additional motive to whet his zeal for union, which appealed 
so powerfully to the more robust, practical Swiss reformer. 

51 On the negotiations and the motives underlying them, which 
preceded the Marburg Conference, see Von Schubert, "Beitrage zur 
Geschichte der evangelischen Bekenntnis und Bundnisbildung " 
(1529-30), " Z.K.G." (1908), 323 f. 

" Enders, vii. 121-123, 29th June 1529. 

The Marburg Conference 321 

The conference, which took place in the castle at Marburg 
and lasted from the ist to the 3rd October, 83 brought together 
all the more notable divines on either side. With Luther 
came Melanchthon, Justus Jonas, Cruciger, Myconius, Brenz, 
Osiander, Agricola; with Zwingli, Oecolampadius, Bucer, 
and Hedio. The brunt of the debate was, however, borne 
by Luther on the one hand, and Zwingli and Oecolampadius 
on the other, after Melanchthon had spent the first day 
conferring privately with Zwingli and Luther with 
Oecolampadius. 34 The Wittenberg theologians were sur- 
prised to learn that their opponents were not the fanatics 
and heretics they had taken them for. Zwingli emphatically 
averred his adherence to the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds, 
and admitted a spiritual manducation by faith, and thus 
reverted to the more mystical view of his earlier teaching. 
His declarations on these subjects tended to produce an 
atmosphere more favourable to friendly discussion. 35 

In public conference on the 2nd, Luther from the outset, 
however, declared that he would abide by his conviction 
of the bodily presence and the real manducation, though, 
like Paul, he was ready to give a reason for his faith. On 
the table before him he had chalked Hoc est corpus meum> 
which he insisted on taking in the literal sense. 
Oecolampadius reminded him of the use of figurative 
language in Scripture, and quoted John vi. 63, " It is the 
spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing," in 
proof of his contention that Christ could only have spoken 
figuratively of eating His body, and that He referred to 
spiritual not to carnal eating. Luther denied that this 
interpretation applied to the words of institution, and 
maintained that the Christian is not to ask for explanations 
of Christ's assertion, but implicitly to believe it. If God 

88 Jackson wrongly says that it began on the 30th Sept., " Huldreich 
Zwingli," 314 (1901). 

s *Enders, vii. 169. 

3 * This private discussion ranged over the main doctrines of the 
Christian faith, besides that of the Lord's Supper, and thus served the 
useful purpose of showing Luther and Melanchthon that, apart from 
this doctrine, the parties were in general agreement on these doctrines. 
Von Schubert, " Z.K.G." (1908), 377 f. 

322 Luther and the Reformation 

ordered him to eat dung he would do it and ask no 
questions. 86 

Zwingli took exception to such an unreasonable notion 
of what is required of faith. He maintained that Scripture 
must be collated with Scripture in order to arrive at the 
meaning of such figurative expressions. So doing, the words 
of institution could only be rightly understood by substituting 
" signifies " for " is." John vi. 63 showed conclusively that 
this is the only possible interpretation. Luther had demanded 
that they should prove their contention, and Zwingli held 
that this was proof positive that in the Sacrament the 
believer could only eat Christ's body spiritually and not 
actually. " The words Hoc e$t corpus mewn" retorted 
Luther, doggedly, " are not ours, but Christ's ; da kan 
der teuffel nicht ftir, the devil himself cannot make it 
otherwise. I ask you therefore to leave off your tamper- 
ing with the Word and give glory to God." "And we/ 1 
retorted Zwingli, " ask you to give glory to God and leave 
off your quibbling." 37 At this point the discussion became 
so hot that the Landgrave was fain to intervene, and the 
sitting had to be adjourned till the afternoon. 

On resuming, Luther, in reply to Zwingli's objection to 
the real manducation, maintained that while we actually eat 
the body, it is not food in the ordinary sense and is not 
digested like other food. Nevertheless it transmits itself 
to us. The discussion then turned on the question of its 
ubiquity. Oecolampadius quoted the passages referring to 
Christ's going away, and adduced the finitude and limitation 
of His human body. " How/' he asked, " can one and the 
same body be in different places at the same time ? " * 
" I care not for mathematics/' returned Luther. " God is 
able to effect that the body is in heaven and at the same 
time in the Sacrament. I believe that it is in both and I 
stick to the words, Hoc est corpus meum. I care not that 
this belief is contrary to nature. It is not against faith." 89 
" It is against faith," replied Oecolampadius, " for Christ 
was made like unto us. He is one with us in our humanity, 

" " Werke," xxx., Pt. III., 116. " Ibid., xxx., Pt. III., 128, 130. 
" Ibid., xxx., Pt. III., 122. " Ibid., xxx., Pt. III., 130-131. 

The Marburg Conference 323 

whilst consubstantial with the Father in His divinity, and only 
as divine can He be omnipresent." " I care not for your 
distinction in this matter," was the reply. " Christ is 
substantially in the Sacrament just as He was born of the 
Virgin, and He does not cease to be both in heaven and in 
the bread." Zwingli adduced in support of his colleague's 
contention additional passages of Scripture, especially 
Hebrews iv. 15, " He hath in all points been tempted like 
as we are, yet without sin/' Luther again retorted that, 
in the face of the words chalked before him, mathematics 
could not apply. 

On resuming on the following morning, Sunday, 3rd 
October, Zwingli asked for proofs of the ubiquity. " My 
dear sirs," replied Luther, again pointing to the text, " since 
the words of my Lord Jesus stand there, I really cannot go 
beyond them, but must confess and believe that the body 
of Christ is there." " Surely," interposed Zwingli, " the 
word ' there ' is an adverb of place." " The words," 
retorted Luther, "are ' this/ not ' there ' is my body. 
God can make a body to be in more places than one when 
He pleases." The schoolmen had argued that this was even 
mathematically possible, as he tried to show by examples. 
Zwingli then quoted Augustine and Fulgentius in support 
of the view that a body must be in a definite space. Luther 
admitted that these Fathers were against him on this point, 
but contended that Christ is not present in a spatial sense, 
and that other Fathers agreed with him. Moreover, the 
Fathers are only to be believed in as far as they speak in 
accordance with Scripture. Besides, if, on the assumption 
of his opponents, Christ's divinity did not suffer as well as 
His humanity and He could not therefore be in the Sacrament 
both as God and man, such a Christ would be of no use to 
him. " If," returned Oecolampadius, " He is not present 
in a spatial sense, He cannot be bodily in the Sacrament, 
which must, therefore, be a symbol of His body," They, too, 
received the Scripture as the only authority, and they had 
only quoted Augustine to show that they taught nothing new. 

By the Sunday evening the disputants had argued them- 
selves to a complete deadlock, and agreed that further debate 
was hopeless. Thereupon the Chancellor of the Landgrave 

324 Luther and the Reformation 

appealed to both sides to think better of it and make another 
attempt to reach an understanding. " The only way to 
reach an understanding," replied Luther, "is for you to 
give honour to the Word of God and believe as we do." 40 
" As you refuse to bend to our interpretation of the text/' 
was the retort, " so we refuse to accept yours." " Well, 
then/' replied Luther, " we commend you to God and His 
judgment." In a more softened tone he thanked them 
for their courtesy in conducting the discussion, and asked 
Zwingli's forgiveness for having indulged in some acrid 
expressions in the course of it, seeing he was but flesh and 
blood. Zwingli similarly begged his forgiveness for some 
harsh expressions and with tears in his eyes professed his 
ardent desire for friendship and fellowship. There were no 
men in the world whose friendship he more eagerly desired. 
Oecolampadius urged him for God's sake to have respect to 
the afflicted Church, and Bucer vindicated the orthodoxy 
of the Strassburg theologians which he had aspersed. Luther 
replied with a repelling negative. " You have a different 
spirit from us. There can be no community of spirit between 
us and you who profess to accept the Word of Christ, and 
nevertheless condemn, controvert, and seek to undermine 
it with all kinds of sacrilegious arguments." ffl " Pray God/' 
he added in conclusion, " that you may be converted." 
" Pray God yourself," returned Oecolampadius, " for you 
stand equally in need of being converted." tt 

Despite this impasse, the Landgrave, after the formal 
dose of the debate on the afternoon of the 3rd October, 
made a final effort to secure unanimity. He besought both 

* " Werke," xxx., Pt, III., 149. 

41 Ibid., xxx., Pt. III., 150. 

** Ibid. , xxx., Pt. Ill ., 144. For the discussion seethe various reports in 
" Werke/' xxx., Pt. III., 92 f., by Hedio, an anonymous writer, Collinus, 
Osiander, Brenz, and another anonymous writer. For the reports of 
Justus Jonas and Melanchthon, " Corp. Ref.," i. 1095 f. See also 
Schirnnacher, " Briefe und Akten zu der Geschichte des Religions- 
gespraches zu Marburg/' 3-29 (1876); Von Schubert, " Bekenntnis- 
bildung und Religionspolitik," 1529-30 (1910); W. Kohler, 
" Zwingli und Luther," i. The facsimile of the Marburg Articles as 
deposited in the Archives at Zurich is given by Usteri in " Theolog. 
Studien und Kritiken " (1883), 400 f. 

The Marburg Conference 325 

parties to consider in private the possibility of finding a 
formula which both could subscribe. Luther and his 
colleagues expressed their willingness to do so, and Luther 
drew up a formula which, while asserting that " the body of 
Christ is truly," i.e., essentially and substantially, 43 " present 
in the Sacrament and not merely in the remembrance of the 
partaker," waives further discussion on the question as to 
the mode of its presence, i.e., " whether bodily or spiritually, 
naturally or supernaturally, spatially or non-spatially." On 
this understanding he and his colleagues were prepared to 
recognise their opponents as brethren. 44 This was un- 
doubtedly a considerable concession on Luther's part and, 
at first, Bucer was disposed to accept it as a feasible solution 
in the private discussions on the subject which took place 
on the following day, the 4th October. Zwingli and 
Oecolampadius, on the other hand, and under their influence 
ultimately Bucer, could not bring themselves to admit 
the real presence in the Lutheran sense, and held to their 
view that Christ is present only in a spiritual sense 
(spiritualiter)** Luther's formula thus failed to reconcile 
the contending parties. The bodily presence, as he under- 
stood it, could not be harmonised with the spiritual view of 
the presence as Zwingli conceived it. Moreover, the Swiss 
theologians objected to such terms as " essentially and 
substantially present " as unbiblical and likely to mystify 
and mislead the simple believer and lead to a crass notion 
of the presence, 46 

In view of Luther's passionate conviction of the bodily 
presence and his previous argumentation, his final concession 
represents a real stretch of principle for the sake of union. 
At the same time, the bodily is distinctively emphasised 
as against the spiritual presence, which to Zwingli is the 

4S Essential iter et substantive, 

44 " Werke," xxx., Pt. III., 150. Osiander's Report. See also 
Von Schubert, " Beitrage," " Z.K.G." (1909), 67-68. 

4G Enders, vii. 354. 

4 * For the details of this private negotiation see Von Schubert, 
" Beitrage," " Z.K.G." (1909), 60 f. He gives from the Correspondence 
of the brothers Blaurer, edited by Schiess, i. (1908), the actual formula 
as drawn up by Luther at Marburg, which Osiander only imperfectly 

326 Luther and the Reformation 

only feasible one. On this cardinal issue the intellectual 
and religious standpoints of the two chief disputants in- 
evitably led to a collision. Luther's disposition to divorce 
faith and reason clashed with Zwingli's tendency to harmonise 
them as much as possible. For Luther the bodily presence 
is an essential of saving faith one of the relics of mediaeval 
belief which he carried into the Reformation. For Zwingli 
it is both an unscriptural and irrational encumbrance of 
faith, on which salvation does not depend. Such a materialist 
view is not consonant with a reasonable and experimental 
piety. " We confess/ 1 he wrote a few weeks afterwards, 
in words that reflect his distinctive position, " that the 
body of Christ is present in the Holy Supper, not as body 
nor in the nature of body, but sacramentally to the mind 
which is upright, pure, and reverent towards God/ 1 47 

The next best thing, in the interest of the Landgrave's 
policy of a Protestant League, was to emphasise the points 
on which they agreed, and to this end he persuaded Luther to 
draw up a series of fifteen articles, 48 embracing the main 
doctrines of the reformed creed. For this purpose he used 
a previous set which had been drawn up at Schwabach 
as a basis of a prospective alliance of the Lutheran princes 
and cities. In that treating of the Sacrament both sides, 
whilst expressing agreement on a number of specified points, 
confessed their inability to see eye to eye on the question 
of the bodily presence. At the same time, they undertook 
to exercise Christian charity as far as conscience would allow, 
and to pray God for further enlightenment with a view to 
an ultimate understanding. To these articles Zwingli and his 
associates as well as Luther and his adherents subscribed, 
although in the matter of original sin and some other points 
they did not exactly express the convictions of the Swiss 
theologians. They were willing to compromise to this 
extent for the sake of union, in the hope that the conference 
might thus result in a defensive league against the common 
enemy, and obviate the scandal and weakness of disunion 
within the reformed ranks. This spirit of compromise 

<* " Opera," viii. 549; Jackson, " Zwingli," 334-335- 
4 * " Werke," xacx., Ft. III., i6of. 

The Marburg Conference 327 

should not be ascribed, as is sometimes done, to mere 
opportunism, since Zwingli held that where there was 
substantial agreement on the evangelical faith, it was 
legitimate as well as advisable, for such urgent practical 
reasons, to agree to differ on the issue in dispute. 

Both sides also agreed to refrain from controversial 
writing. In spite of Luther's relentless refusal to recognise 
the Swiss as brothers, whilst agreeing to observe peace 
and charity, 49 the conference thus had not been an absolute 
failure. If he refused to give the hand of fellowship to 
Zwingli and his colleagues as brethren, he had at least dis- 
covered that they were not the heretics and extremists he 
had denounced in his writings against them. In view of the 
mischievous fireworks of the previous three years, the 
agreement to cease controversy was a substantial gain. 
It tended to make further negotiation, if not with Zwingli 
himself, who fell at Kappel two years later, at all events 
with the south German theologians, and paved the way 
for the Wittenberg Concord of 1536. Although Luther and 
his colleagues saw in Zwingli's eagerness for fellowship a 
proof of his superior debating power, and on this ground 
claimed the victory, 50 he was more impressed by some of 
his arguments than he cared to own, and was genuinely 
desirous of an agreement. Melanchthon, too, if not attracted 
by Zwingli, who was as convinced of the truth of his own 
contentions as Luther was of his, and also claimed the victory, 
had been favourably impressed by some of those of 
Oecolampadius, with whom he maintained a correspondence. 
He ultimately, in fact, abandoned the literal interpretation 
of the words of institution and the oral eating, which he 
already in the following year ignored in the Augsburg 
Confession. At the same time, the failure of Luther and 
Melanchthon at Marburg to give the hand of fellowship to 
the Swiss, in spite of a difference of opinion on a question 
of exegesis, which after all admitted of two possible inter- 

40 Enders, vii. 169. 

co See, besides the reports of the Lutheran writers, his letters to 
Agricola, I2th Oct. (Enders, vii. 169), and to Link, 28th Oct. (ibid., vii. 
179 J cf. 353-354 letter to Jacob, provost of the church at Bremen, ist 
June 1530). 

328 Luther and the Reformation 

pretations, and which Zwingli and his colleagues rightly 
held should not prevent them from recognising one another 
as brethren, perpetuated the spirit of division between the 
Swiss and the Lutheran Church. It also started within the 
Lutheran Church the tendency to a narrow and narrowing 
dogmatism on this question, and helped to obscure the initial 
grandeur of the Lutheran Reformation as an emancipation 
movement. Whilst engaged in the struggle for toleration 
for himself and his adherents, Luther had nobly championed 
the principle of freedom. With the growing strength of his 
cause he was, unfortunately, showing a corresponding 
diminution in tolerance and an increasing tendency to 
regard his own convictions as the exclusive norm of truth 
a tendency which was to be only too fiercely perpetrated by 
the zealots of the Lutheran party against Melanchthon as 
well as against the Swiss. Whilst himself protesting, in his 
controversy with his Roman Catholic opponents, against 
the error of making the dogma of transubstantiation an 
article of faith, he was untrue to his own contention in 
practically demanding acceptance of his own doctrine of 
consubstantiation as an essential of faith. 


"Address to the German Nobility," 
20, 59, 164, 171, 177, 222, 284- 

Agricola, John, 2, 4, 106, 295, 321 

Rudolf, 223 
Alber, Matthew, 317 
Albrecht, Archbishop of Maintz, 

2, 4, 19, 37, 47 f, 234, 275 

Albrecht of Brandenburg, Grand- 
master of Teutonic Knights, 147, 

Aleander, papal Nuncio, 2-4, 10, 
13, 17, 128 

Alsace, 190, 192 

Alstedt, 183, 1 86, 188 

Altenburg, 104-105, 294 

Ambrose, 123, 126 

America, 289 

Amsdorf, 2, 4, n, 52, 67, 68, 71, 
76, 73, 79, 80, 92, 109, 147 

Anabaptists, 301, 305 

Anhalt, Prince of, 276, 303 

Ansbach, Margrave Casimir of, 
207, 279 

Margrave George of, 207, 279 
Antwerp, 144 

Aquinas, Thomas, 126, 152, 235 

Arius, 17 

Articles, the Thirty, 142 

the Twelve, 190-192, 193, 195- 
197, 199 

Augsburg, 6, 146-147 

Confession, 327 
Augustine, St, 7, 44, 119, 123, 126, 

220, 233, 245 

Augustinian Order, Chapter of, 

Aurogallus, professor at Witten- 
berg, 13, 71 

Austria, 158, 19$, 298 

Avignon, 288 

" Babylomc Captivity, The," 17, 

32, 38, 59, 124, 306 
Baden, 190 
Landgrave Philip of, 207, 


Bamberg, 153, 299 
Barcelona, Treaty of, 299 
Barge, 97 
Basle, 89, 143, 198, 212, 236, 242, 

309, 313 
Bavaria, Duke William of, 148, 

158, 276, 280, 299 
Bavaria, 158, 195, 298 
Bayle, 227 
Beheim, Hector, 2 
Berlepsch, Hans von, i, 9 
Berhchingen, Gotz von, 197 
Bernard, St, 23, 119, 220 
Berne, 320 

Bernhardi, Barth., 19-20 
Beyer, Dr, 38, 71 
Biel, scholastic theologian, 318 
Black Forest, the, 188, 190 
Blarer, 145, 147 
Bohemia, 35, 183, 280, 299 
Bohemians, 215, 307 
Bora, Catherine von, 131 
Borna, 104 
Bourbon, 299 
Brabant, 145 
Brandenburg, Margrave George 

of, 303 
Brandenburg- Ansbach, Margrave 

of, 148 

Braunfels, Otto, 145 
Brenz, 147, 317, 321 
Breslau, 147, 298 
Brisger, Prior, 109 
Brissmann, John, 130, 145 
Bruck, Chancellor, 36, 38 
Brunswick, 190 




Brunswick, Duke Henry of, 148, 

206, 275-276, 303 
Bucer, 3, 141, 145, 209-210, 214, 

Bugenhagen, 24, 223, 280, 293, 317 
Bulgenbach, 189 
Bull, Ccma Domini, 61 
Burerius, 90 
Burke, 233 

Calvin, 222, 273, 282 

Cambrai, Treaty of, 299 

Campeggio, Cardinal, I54-I55* 

Canterbury, St Thomas of, 47 

Capito, 48-52, 98, 147, 213, 309, 

Caracciolo, papal Nuncio, 3 

Carinthia, 190 

Carlstadt, 20-21, 34 .,69 f., 82-83, 
96, 98-99, 104-105, 107-108, 117, 
149, 150-151, 160, 166, 180, 
198-199, 211, 214, 248, 299 f, 
308 f. 

Cellarius, 99 

Charles V., Emperor, 10, 87, 139, 
143, 148, 154 f., 164, 174, 193- 
195, 217, 236, 275 f. 

Chieregati, Bishop of Tiramo, 149 

Christian, King of Denmark, 276 

Cicero, 231, 297 

Clement VII., Pope, 154-155, 242 

Clerk, John, 124 

Cochlaeus, 128-129, *39, 222-223 

Cognac, League of, 277, 299 

Cologne, 1 66, 213 

Communion in both kinds, 35 f . ; 
Opposition of the Elector to its 
introduction at Wittenberg, 36 f., 
69 f. ; made obligatory by 
Luther, 113 

Constance, Bishop of, 130 

town of, 147, 303 

Constantine, Emperor, 293 

Corpus Christianum, 284 

Cronberg, Hartmuth von, 148, 169 

Crotus Rubianus, 224-225 

Cruciger, 321 

Curia, Roman, 149-151, 160 

Cyprian, St, 123 


D'Ailly, 306 

" De Libero Arbitrio," 242 f. 

" De Servo Arbitrio," 252 f. 

Denmark, 280, 298 

Dessau, 275 

" Devotio Moderna," 228-229 

Antiqua, 228 

Dietenberger, 128 

Dilthey, 227 

Dollinger, 290 

Dresden, 4, 127 

Dungersheim von Ochsenfart, 98 

Dtirer, Albrecht, 3 

Eberlin von Gimzburg, 140, 145, 


Ebernburg, 141, 166-167, 169 
Eck, John, 10, 128 
Egranus, 182 

Eilenburg, 70, 78, 80, 104 
Einsiedel, von, 76, 77, 78, 79 
Eisenach, I, 7, 180, 216, 221 
Eisleben, 132, 144, 183, 223 
Eislmgen, 147 

Emser, 7-8, 40, 125, 128, 152, 275 
England, 178, 280 
Eobanus Hessus, 212, 215-216, 224 
Erasmus, 33, 51, 67, 89, 124, 145, 

182, 215, 217,222, 224 f., 3H 
Erfurt, 8, 11, 52, 55, 88, 105-106, 

143-144, 146, 212 f., 265, 267 

Faber, John, 130, 133, 152, 239 

Ferdinand, Archduke, 150, 152, 
158, 193, 277, 280, 298-299 
(King of Hungary), 303 

Ficino, 227, 230 

Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, 128, 

Flanders, 145 

Florence, 277 

"Formula Missae," in f. 

France, 280, 289, 298 

Francis, St, 119 



Francis I., 195, 275, 298-299 

Franconia, 169, 190, 206 

Frankenhausen, 206 

Fiankfurt, 46, 128, 139, 181 

Frederick, Elector of Saxony, 2, 
13. 19* 32, 36-38, 44, 46, 48, 53, 
58,68f., 80 f., 92, 95 f,, 104 f., 
128, 143, 147, 152, 158, 165-166, 
186, 198, 213, 234-235, 275 

Frederick III., Emperor, 176, 193 

Freiberg, 153 

Freiburg, 213 

Fnesland, East, 279 

Frosch, 145, 147 

Froben, 242 

Gaismeyi, Michael, 193, 206 

Gansfort, Wessel, 307 

George, Duke of Saxony, 4-5, 10, 
37, 52, 76-77, 85-86, 97, 104, 
118, 128, 130-131, 150, 170, 206, 
236-237, 242, 275-276, 298-299 

Gerbelhus, 3, n, 24 

Geyer, Florian, 197 

Glareanus, 223 

Gotha, 223, 276 

" Gravamina of the German 
Nation," 159, 276 

Gregory I., Pope, 119 

Greiffenklau, Archbishop of Trier, 
166, 169 

Greifswald, 213 

Grimma, 131 

Grisar, 145 

Grubenhagen, Duke of, 276 

Grumbach, Argula von, 148 

Giittel, Kaspar, 102, 144 


Hadrian VI., Pope, 149 *-, 237 

Halberstadt, 52, 223 

Halle, 47-48, 53 

Hamburg, 147 

Hartfelder, 223 

Haubitz, 292 

Hausmann, Lutheran preacher, 

102, ni, 205, 286 
Hedio, 309, 3x5, 321 

Hegau, the, 189 

Heilbronn, 193, 197, 206 

Helfenstein, Count, 197 

Kelt, Prior, 34 

Henry VIII. , 121, 123 f., 157, 237- 

238, 242, 276-277 
Hermelink, 230 
Hess, John, 102, 145, 147, 212 
Hesse, 190, 288 
Hesse, Landgrave Philip of, 169, 

206-207, 275-276, 288, 297 f., 

301 f ,319*- 
Hilary, 7, 220 
Hipler, 193 
Hoen (Honius), Dutch jurist, 

306 f. 

Hohentwiel, 189 
Holland, 145, 289 
Holstein, 279 
Homberg, 288 
Hubmaier, 181, 190 
Hungary, 298, 299 
King of, 157 
Hus, John, 17, 150, 182 
Hussites, 7,35,37, n6, 146 
Hutten, Ulnch von, 89-90, 141, 

161 f., 224, 232, 238 
Hymns, 113 
" Hyperaspistes," 272 

India, 178 

Ingolstadt, University of, 148 

" Instruction and Command " of 

Elector John, 292 
Irenaeus, 123 

Isabella, sister of Charles V., 154 
Italy, 190, 206, 280 

Janssen, 230, 305 

Jena, 88, 308 

Jerome, 7, 220, 233, 263 

Joachim, Elector of Brandenburg, 

4-5, 37, 150, 275-276, 298 
John, Duke of Saxony, 106, 147, 

171, 186, 198, 275-276, 290 f., 

298-299, 301 f,, 320 

33 2 


John Frederick, Duke, 102, 106, 


Jonas, Justus, 13, 37, 70-71, 73 f., 
79, 107-108, 130, 321 


Kalkoff, 168 

Kappel, Battle of, 327 

Karsthans, 55, 140 

Kellner, 99 

Kemberg, 19 

Kempe, 145, 147 

Kempten, 181, 189 

Kessler, 89 

Kettenbach, 147, 169 

Kletgau, 189 

Knaxdorff, Lutheran preacher, 52 

Knights, the Teutonic, 147 

Knight George, Luther as, I, 9, 


Knox, John, 222 
Kohlmeyr, Piofessor, 285 
Kolb, Francis, 310 
Konigsberg, 147 
Kotteritz, 117 
Koppe, Leonard, 131-132 

Lambert, Francis, 288 

Landau, 168 

Landstuhl, 169 

Lang, John, 33, 67, 102, 105-106, 

144, 224, 233 

Lateran Council, Fourth, 15 
Latomus, Luther's confutation of, 

Lee, Edward, Archbishop of York, 


Lefevre, 215, 238 
Leipheim, 181 
Leipzig, 3, 6-7, 18, 52, 85, 130, 

181, 213 

Disputation of, 224 
Leisnig, 109, 117 
Leo X., Pope, 124, 149 
Lichtenberg, monk of, 48 
Link, Wencelaus, 33, 102, 144 
Livonia, 147 
Lochau, 70, 78 

" Loci Communes," 144, 252 

Lorraine, 190, 192 

Duke of, 207 

Louvain, 7, 18, 40, I49> 234 

Luneburg, Duke of, 276, 303 

Lupfen, Count of, 188 

Luther, arrival at the Wartburg, i ; 
first letters to his friends, 2, 4-6 ; 
rumours about his disappear- 
ance, 2-3; expositions of 
Psalms, 5-7; the Bible his 
battle-cry, 7-8 ; illness at the 
Wartburg, 8-9; excursions, 9- 
10 ; his encounters with the 
devil, 10- 1 1 ; his interest in the 
work of his colleagues, n ; 
letter to Melanchthon urging 
him to take his place as preacher 
of the Gospel, 12; "Be a 
sinner and sin vigorously,'* 12; 
his tendency to impulsive, com- 
promising utterance, 12-13 ; in- 
terest in reorganisation of the 
University, 13 ; his work on 
Auricular Confession, 13-16; 
translates Melanchthon's phil- 
ippic against the Sorbonne 
doctors with his own preface 
and conclusion, 16-19; letters 
on the question of priestly and 
monastic celibacy, 20-22 ; theses 
on monastic vows, 22-24; the 
" De Votis Monasticis," 24 f . ; 
urges Spalatm to have it pub- 
lished, 32-33; prompts the 
Chapter of Augustinian Order 
to decree freedom to renounce 
the monastic life, 33-34; his 
interest in the discussion at 
Wittenberg on communion in 
both kinds, 38 ; his work on the 
* * Abrogation of the Mass , " 
39 f . ; his sympathy with the 
active reform party at Witten- 
berg, 47 ; the Indulgence at 
Halle, 47-48; Luther demands 
its suppression and writes 
" Against the Halle Idol," 48 ; 
resists the attempt of the Elector 
to prevent its publication, 48-49 ; 
challenges the Archbishop of 
Maintz directly on the subject, 
49 ; the Archbishop's humble and 



Luther, Martin contd. 
submissive reply, 50 ; his answer 
to Capito, 51-52 ; secret visit to 
Wittenberg, 52-53; reproaches 
Spalatin for hindering the 
publication of his controversial 
writings, 53 ; writes his " Warn- 
ing against Revolt," 54 f . ; criti- 
cism of his teaching on the 
subject, 58 f. ; his sardonic 
New Year's Greeting to the 
Pope, 61-62 ; his sermons for the 
instruction of the people, 62 f . ; 
his translation of the New 
Testament, 66-68 ; his col- 
leagues summon him to return 
to Wittenberg, 79; his early 
attitude towards the innovations 
at Wittenberg and towards the 
Zwickau prophets, 80-8 1 ; his 
first letter to the Elector on the 
Wittenberg situation, 81-82 ; the 
Elector's reply and its indefinite 
character, 83-84 ; Luther's strik- 
ing response, 84-85; his 
attempts at diplomatic com- 
position, 86-88 ; experiences in 
the inn at Jena, 88-90 ; sermons 
at Wittenberg in behalf of 
moderation, 90 f. ; appreciation 
and criticism of them, 95-97 ; his 
modification of the Ordinance, 
97-98 ; his attitude to Carlstadt, 
98-99; his interview with the 
prophets, 99-101 ; progress as 
practical reformer, 102 f. ; pub- 
lishes his eight sermons, 103; 
mission in Saxony, 104-105 ; 
epistle and visit to Erfurt, 105- 
106 ; demands and enforces sup- 
pression of Mass in All Saints, 
Wittenberg, 107-109; Order of 
Worship for Leisnig, 109-110; 
the*' Formula Missae," 111-113; 
the baptismal service, 113-114; 
model organisation for the 
Church at Leisnig, 114-116; 
visit to Leisnig, 117; renews 
polemic from Wittenberg, 119; 
sure of ultimate victory, 118; 
" Caveat against Human Teach- 
ing," 119-120; "Against the 
Falsely Called Estate of Pope 

Luther, Martin contd 
and Bishops," 120-123; his 
Bull of Reformation, 123 ; 
Henry VIII. 's " Defence of the 
Seven Sacraments " and 
Luther's reply, 123-128; bout 
with Cochlaeus, 128-129; Sasger 
and Faber, 129-130; protects 
escaped nuns, 131-132; Luther 
and Florentina von Oberweimar, 
132-133; series of works on 
marriage, 133-137; his potent 
influence, 138-139 ; rapid sale of 
his works, 139 ; great increase of 
controversial literature, largely 
pro- Lutheran, 139-140 ; the 
popular pamphlet, 140 ; 
" Karsthans," "Neukarsthans," 
140-142; Luther's titanic ac- 
tivity, 142-143 ; Melanchthon's 
4 * Loci Communes," 143-144; 
Lutheran preachers, 144 f. ; pro- 
cess of the spread of the Lutheran 
movement, 146; recruits from 
the princes and the nobility, 
147-148; Pope Hadrian de- 
nounces Luther, 149-150; atti- 
tude of the first Diet of Nurnberg 
towards Luther, 150-152; 
Luther's attitude towards it, 
1 52- 1 53 ; towards Pope Hadrian, 
153; how he interprets certain 
portents, 153-154; the second 
Diet of Nurnberg and Luther, 
1 54- * 5 5 > Luther's denunciation 
of Emperor and Diet, 155-158; 
Hutten and Luther, 161-163; 
Sickingen and Luther, 166-167 ; 
Luther on the Sickingen Rising, 
170; his work on the Secular 
Power, 171-174; Luther and 
social reform, 174 f. ; his sermon 
on "Usury," 177-179; demo- 
cratic implications of his teach- 
ing, 179-180; the advanced 
Lutheran preachers and social 
reform, 180-181 ; Luther and 
Miinzer, 183-184; wherein their 
teaching differs, 185 - 186 ; 
Luther's " Missive on the 
Revolutionary Spirit," 186-188; 
banishment of Miinzer, 188; 
Luther and Carlstadt, 198 ; his 



Luther, Martin contd. 
exhortation to the peasants, 
199 f. ; his violent philippic 
against them, 204 f . ; suppres- 
sion of the Rising and its 
effects on Luther and the 
Lutheran movement, 207 f . ; 
Luther and education, 21 if.; 
highly values the new culture, 
215-216; his "Address to the 
German Municipalities," 216 f. ; 
Erasmus on the unfavourable 
influence of Lutheramsm on 
culture, 222 ; attitude of human- 
ists to Luther, 224-225 ; Erasmus 
paves the way for Luther, 225- 
226; difference between their 
standpoints, 227-228; Erasmus 
and the " Devotio Moderna," 
228-229; his attitude as a 
reformer, 229-230; his dread 
of tumult, 232-233; Luther's 
early relations with, 233-234; 
Erasmus befriends him, 234-235 ; 
but will not run risks, 235-236 ; 
his method of dealing with the 
movement, 236-237 ; Hutten 
accuses him of cowardice, 238 ; 
Luther's criticisms of him come 
into his hands, 238-239; acri- 
monious correspondence between 
them, 239-240; Erasmus pub- 
lishes his " De Libero Arbitrio," 
242 ; examination and evaluation 
of this attack, 242 f.; Luther 
replies with the " De Servo 
Arbitrio," 251 ; examination 
and criticism of the work, 252 f. ; 
the complete breach between 
them, 272-273; by his violent 
attitude towards the peasants 
Luther unwittingly furthers the 
persecution of his adherents, 
274-275; not yet prepared to 
sanction active defence of the 
Reformation, 276; decision of 
the. first Diet of Spires 
favourable to the Reformation, 
277-278 ; Luther's conception 
of the Church, 280-282 ; Church 
and the secular power practically 
independent, though they may 
co-operate, 282-283 ; the discus- 

Luther, Martin contd. 
sion on his earlier view and the 
lack of agreement on the ques- 
tion, 283-285 ; his view of the 
distinction of the temporal and 
spiritual spheres in his work 
on the Secular Power, 286; 
his democratic Church constitu- 
tion, 286-287 ; its lack of suc- 
cess, 287-288; disapproval of 
Lambert's sketch of a democratic 
polity, 288-289 ; fain to seek the 
help of the secular power, 290 ; 
lacking in ecclesiastical states- 
manship, 290-291 ; the clamant 
need for organisation, 291-292 ; 
turns to the Elector John, who 
issues his " Instruction and 
Command," 292-293; the 
" Kirchenordnung " or Church 
Ordinance and Luther's attempt 
to preserve the autonomy of the 
Church, 293-294; the Church 
Ordinance alike a confession of 
faith, a directory of public 
worship, and a scheme of educa- 
tional reform, 294-297; Luther 
again disapproves of active 
defensive measures after the 
second Diet of Spires, 303-304 ; 
Luther's theory of consubstantia- 
tion, 306-307; rejects Hoen's 
figurative interpretation of the 
words of institution, 307-308; 
Carlstadt's interpretation and 
Luther's violent attack " Against 
the Heavenly Prophets," 308- 
313; Zwingli's early view of 
the real presence, 313-315; 
discards it for the figurative 
view, 315 ; difference between 
Luther's theological standpoint 
and his, 315-317; acrid con- 
troversy between him and 
Zwingli, 317-319; the Marburg 
Conference, 320-321 ; prelimin- 
ary private interviews, 321 ; the 
two days' public debate and its 
failure to bring about an agree- 
ment, 321-324; Luther refuses 
fellowship, 324; at the Land- 
grave's instigation Luther draws 
up a formula of agreement which 



Luther, Martin contd. 
fails to secure the assent of the 
Swiss theologians, 324-326 ; 
agreement on the Marburg 
articles which Luther draws up, 
326-327 ; the Conference thus 
not a total failure, though the 
lack of agreement on the sacra- 
mental question had unfortunate 
results, 327-328 


Madrid, Treaty of, 275, 277 
Magdeburg, 19, 51-52, 147, 221, 

223, 276 
Magnificat, Luther's exposition of, 


Mahomet, Luther a second, 149 

Maintz, 299 

M alines, President of the Grand 
Council of, 236 

Mallenbach, 187 

Manicheus, 17 

Mansfeld, 205, 221 

Count Albrecht, 62,132-133, 
148, 276 

Marburg, Conference of, 319 f. 

Marculf , 90 

Margaret, Stadholderin of Nether- 
lands, 280 

Mass, Luther's German, 291 

Mathesius, 9 

Maximilian, Emperor, 176, 197 

Mecklenburg, Duke Henry of, 147, 
276, 300 

Medici, Giulio di, 154 

Meissen, Bishop of, 19, 78, 83, 104 

Melanchthon, 2, 4-5, 8, 11-13, 
20-22, 24, 35, 37-39 48-49, 
52-53, 66, 68, 71, 73, 75-79, 
80, 89, 92, 98-99, 106, 142-144, 
153-154, 209, 212, 217, 223-225, 
233, 252, 273, 275, 282, 291- 
293, 295, 301, 303, 317, 321, 327- 

Memmingen, 180, 189-190 

Menzingen, Stephan, 197 

Mestwerdt, 228-229 

Miltenberg, 146 

Mirisch, 147 

Mochau, Anna von, 70 

Moller, Heinrich, 144 
Monasticism, Luther's theses and 

works on, 22 f. 
Montaigne, 230 
More, Sir Thomas, 128 
Muhlhausen, 188, 194 
Muller, Caspar, 205 

Hans, 189 

Karl, 285 
Municipalities, Luther's appeal 

to, 216 f. 

Munsterberg, Duke Karl of, 148 
Miinzer, Thomas, 75, 181 f., 194, 

198, 203 f., 318 
Murner, Th., 128, 140 
Mutianus, 225 
Myconius, 145, 321 


Neckerwald, 190 

Nesen, W., 128-129 

Netherlands, 113, 143, 230, 280, 


Neu Helfta, 132 
*' Neukarsthans," 140 f. 
Nimbschen, 131 
Neve, 230 
Nordhausen, 223 
Nordlingen, 147 
Niirnberg, 75, 77, 79, 81-82, 86, 

87-89, 104, 107, 143, 146, 149 *"> 

170, 179, 188, 199, 212, 223, 286, 

301, 303 

Oberweimar, Florentina von, 132 

Obsopaeus, 223 

Occam, W., 231, 270, 318 

Odenwald, 190 

Oecolampadius, 13, 141, H5 22 4, 

239i 3i3 317-318, 321 f. 
Ordinance, Saxon Church, 293 f . 
the Wittenberg, 71-74, 77, 78, 

82, 96-98, 214 
Origen, 233 
Orlamunde, 198 
Oryieto, 299 
Osiander, 317, 321 
Ost Friesland, Edzard von, 148 
Ovid, 297 



Pace, English envoy, 236 

Pack, Otto von, 298-299 

Palatine, Elector, 169, 207, 300 

Paris, 7, 16, 18 

Passau, Sebastian von, 148 

Paulsen, 223 

Pavia, Battle of, 190, 275 

Pelagius, 245, 259 

Pellican, Theobald, 145, 147, 


Pfeiffer, radical preacher, 188 
Pico della Mirandola, 227, 230 
Pineau, 230-231 
Pirkheimer, 225 
Planitz, von, 77, 292 
Plato, 227, 231 
Pomer, Hector, 79 
Pomerania, 279 
Duke of, 279 
Portugal, 178 
Postille, 5, 62 f., 67, 89 
Prague, 182, 286 
Presbyterian Church polity, 288 
Probst, Jacob, 144, 147 
Protestants, the, 304 
Protestation at second Diet of 

Spires, 302-303 
Prierias, 164 
Prussia, 147, 279 
Psalms, Luther's expositions of, 

Pusino, 229 

Ranke, Leopold von, 139, 169-170, 

222, 278 

Ratisbon, 195, 275 
Ratzeberger, 88 
Recess of first Diet of Spires, 278- 


of second Diet of Spires, 300 f. 
Regensburg, 158 
JReichskammergenckt, 194 
Reichsregiment, 75, 76, 83, 86-87, 

104, 128, 143, 148, 149, 152, 154, 

164, 286 

Reinhardtsbrunn, 9 
Reuchlin, 225 
Rheingau, 190 

Rieker, Jurist, 284 

Riga, 147 

Ritter, 227 

Rohrbach, Jacklein, 197 

Romans, Luther's commentary on, 

Rome, 7, 17-18, 61-62, 124, 130, 

166, 179, 224, 235, 299 
Rostock, 213 
Rothenburg, 198 
Ruhel, Councillor, 205 

Salzburg, 190 
Archbishop of, 158 
Samland, Bishop of, 147 
Sasger, Caspar, 129-130, 133 
Savoy, Duke Charles of, 148 
Saxe-Lauenburg, Duke Magnus 

of, 147 

Saxony, 190, 198, 309 
Schappeler, Lutheran preacher, 

180, 190 
Schleswig, 279 
Schnepf, Erhard, 147 
Schurf, 2, 86, 89-90, 98, 292 
Schwabischhall, 147 
Schwarzburg, Henry von, 148 
Schwarzenberg, Johann von, 148, 


Scotland, 222, 280, 289 
Scotus, Duns, 152, 245 
Secular power, Luther on the, 

171 f., 286 

Seeberg, German theologian, 314 
Sforza, Duke of Milan, 277 
Shakespeare, W., 158 
Sickingen, Franz von, 2, 55, 141, 

148, 150, 161, 165 f. 
Sigismund, Emperor, 176 
Silesia, 279 
Social reform, 174 f. 
Socrates, 231 
Sohm, Jurist, 283 
Sorbonne, the, 16 f., 40, 227, 


Spain, 149, 275, 278, 280 
Spalatin, i, 2, 4-5, 9, u, 13, 20, 

32, 39, 48-49, 5 1, 'f 59, 76, 

80-81, 87, 102, 107 184, 198, 

238, 277 



Spires, 158 

first Diet of, 276-279 

second Diet of, 297 f., 320 
Staehelm, biographer of Zwingli, 


Stahremberg, Barth. von, 148 
Staupitz, 131 
Stiefel, Michael, 147 
Stolberg, Count Ludwig, 148 
Stolze, 195 
Storch, 75, 182 
Stralsund, 146 
Strassburg, 3, 143, 212, 303, 313, 

Strauss, Lutheran preacher, 180, 


Stiibner, 75, 79, 99-101, 181-182 
Styna, 190 
Suaven, Peter, 24 
Swabian League, 169, 189-190 
Sweden, 280, 298 
Switzerland, 169, 222, 289, 320 

" Table Talk," Luther's, 10, 66, 


Taborites, the, 182 
Taubenheim, Hans von, 70 
Tauber, 198 
Tauler, John, 182 
Thuringia, I, 2, 183, 188, 190, 194, 

198, 203 
Tiber, 153 

Torgau, 104, 131,276 
Trier (Treves), 166, 169, 190 
Troeltsch, 227 
Truchsess, Count of Waldburg, 


Tubingen, 99 
Tyrol, 190, 193 


Ulm, 147, 158, 303 
Ulscenius, 213 , 
Urbanus Rhegius, 145, 147 
Usingen, 105-106 
Usury, Luther's sermon on, 177- 


Valdes, secretary of Charles V., 


Valla, Laurentius, 227, 230 
Venice, 277 
Virgil, 297 

Voltaire, 159, 226-227 
Vulgate, the, 68 


Waibel, Lutheran preacher, 181 

Waldensians, 146, 220 

Waldshut, 1 8 1, 189 

Wartburg, i, 3, 5-8, 10, 13, 32, 
44-45> 50, Si. 55, 56, 63, 79, 82, 
84, 99* io7, 109, n8, 138, 149, 
167, 213, 223 

Wehe, Jacob, 181 

Weigant, 193 

Weimar, 106, 171 

Weinsberg, 197, 203 

Wernle, 227 

Wertheim, Count George, 148, 

Westerburg, Dr, loo 

Wichf, 17, 246 

Wichfites, 6, 237 

Widerstet, 132 

Wimpheling, 223 

Wittenberg, 2-5, 11, 13, 24-25, 
32-34, 45-46, 47-48, 52, 53, 64, 
66, 68 f., 80 f., 90 f., 102, 104, 
106, 109, in, 117, 119, 130131, 
138, I43-I44, M9, *68, 183, 198, 
213-214, 217, 223-224, 235, 

Wolsey, Cardinal, 242 

Worms, 2-3, 5-6, 8, 13, 24, 33, 37, 
62, 84, 88, 118, 128, 139, 148, 
I54-I55* 158, 160, 166, 199, 270, 
275, 277-278, 300, 304 

Wiirtemberg, 189 

WUrzburg, 299 

Ximenes, Cardinal, 149 


Zapolya, 298, 299 

Zasius, 225 

Zell, Lutheran preacher, 147 

Zurich, 314, 320 

Zutphen, Henry of, 144, 147 

Zwickau, 102, 181-182, 286 

Zwickau, prophets of, 75-76, 99- 

101, 181, 199 
Zwilling, Gabriel, 25, 34, 35 f., 

70 f., 98, 104-105, 144 
Zwingli, 3, 170, 217, 224, 239, 247, 

282, 288, 298, 300, 313 f., 

321 f. 
Zwmglians, 301